ANSON — In just a few weeks Mary Adley will find herself in a place she hasn’t been in a while — a second-grade math class.

Adley, a high school special education teacher at Carrabec High School, is part of a small group of teachers participating in peer review teacher evaluations, a first in the Anson-based school district.

“I have experience at the elementary level and I used to be an elementary school principal,” she said as she explained how the new evaluations will be conducted by a group of volunteer teachers who received training in Augusta this summer.

Last year the school district became one of five in the state to participate in the Maine Schools for Excellence project, a grant-based initiative for school improvement that is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Carrabec High School also accepted a national Schools in Need of Improvement grant last year.

“Both require that an evidence-based teacher and principal evaluation project be implemented,” said Ken Coville, Regional School Unit 74 superintendent. The communities in the district are: Anson, Embden, New Portland and Solon.

Last year the state also passed a law requiring for the first time that teachers and principals be evaluated.

Under the law, the district must develop the requirements and processes for evaluation by the 2013-2014 school year, run a pilot evaluation program by the same period and use the evaluations by the following school year, said Coville.

He said that because of the grant stipulations he estimates that Anson is two years ahead of most of the state in meeting these requirements.

This is the second year that Maine has applied for grants through the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, making them able to give the same grant to an additional 17 schools in 6 districts this year.

David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the Department of Education, said that so far a majority of teachers have responded positively to the requirements, including the new evaluation system, which is a stipulation of the grant. He said that one of the grant requirements is a signed approval by the local teacher’s union.

“We’ve had a positive reaction by teachers for the most part,” he said. “They get to help develop the system by which they are measured.”

In the Anson-based district, developing and planning for the evaluations began in the spring and summer of 2011 and last year an initial evaluation of all teachers was conducted. This year it will expand to include principal evaluations and will also expand the scope of the evaluation, according to Coville.

For the first time the school will use student surveys to allow teachers to receive direct feedback on their performance.

There will also be self and peer assessments for teachers developed by an education consultant out of Augusta, TeachScape, that trained small groups from the Maine Schools for Excellence districts during the summer.

In addition to being a new requirement by the state, Coville said that peer assessment is a good way for teachers to look at their performance.

“It is a structured way to look at performance that goes beyond just the feedback of that teacher’s supervisor,” he said.

Adley, who has worked in the district for 11 years and formerly worked for the education department, said that although there has been some hesitancy in moving to the new system, for the most part she has heard positive feedback in regards to the evaluations.

“I think before there was concern that evaluations were done by only one person,” she said, referring to last year when teacher evaluations were done by only a supervisor, usually a principal or superintendent. “With this there is more reliability.”

She said that the school will phase in the new evaluations — this year’s peer evaluations are voluntary. They are also working on developing evaluations for parents to fill out.

She will do her first peer evaluation the first week in November, when she will sit in on a second-grade math class. She said the teacher will know the week to expect her, but not the day.

“That way it’s less likely that the class is perceived as a prepackaged come-look-at-me type thing,” she said.

Coville said he hopes that the group of six teachers and six administrators from the district who received training this summer will be able to impart what they learned to the rest of the staff.

He also said that faculty will receive ongoing training throughout the school year both in person and through online classes with TeachScape.

The district will simultaneously work on the development of the superintendent’s evaluation, which is conducted annually even though the state only mandates an evaluation the year prior to the expiration of a contract.

Coville’s contract expires in June 2015.

“It’s a good idea to have a robust superintendent’s evaluation,” he said. “You shouldn’t ask the staff to do anything you’re not subject to as well.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

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