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Supporting educators in Ashland

Recently, an article was published about the Ashland School District's participation in the CLASS Project, "Teachers get new evaluation system." While the article captured some of the work that is happening in our district, it was narrowly focused. I want to take the opportunity to clarify what the project is and why teachers and administrators in Ashland are putting serious time and effort into this work.

The article stated that we would be implementing a new evaluation system next year. This is not correct. The process of creating new systems in our district will be driven by a design team of teachers and administrators. It will take time to develop rigorous systems that make sense for Ashland.

Senate Bill 290, which was passed by the Oregon Legislature last year, requires all school districts to develop evaluation systems that are based on national standards and include multiple measures of student achievement. This work needs to be completed by 2013. Ashland will have a head start on meeting this state requirement through our CLASS Project work, but the work itself will be focused on meeting the needs of our district.

First and foremost, we are participating in the CLASS Project because we want our school district to be one of the best places in the state to be an educator. We know that of in-school factors, it is the teacher that has the most significant impact on student learning. We want all of our educators in Ashland to feel professionally supported and be provided with the tools and opportunities to do their best work for students.

We are working on transforming what being a teacher in Ashland looks like by addressing four components: evaluation, professional development, career paths and compensation. The unique thing about our work is linking together these four elements in a way that will support teachers from the beginning of their career until they retire.

You really can't talk about one element absent the other three. For example, a new evaluation system is only meaningful if it provides educators with relevant feedback and there are opportunities in place for all educators to continuously improve their practice. The evaluation system should help to identify teacher leaders who could take on new roles and responsibilities and be compensated for their contributions.

In the context of education reform on the state and federal level there are lots of mixed messages and some of the most complex issues get oversimplified. The work that Ashland is engaged in is really about making our district an even better place for teachers and students. This is not about one or two policy changes or following the latest trend. This is about a comprehensive system to support educators from the time they are hired until they retire.

Our timeline for this work is to have two components of our overall plan ready (the evaluation system and compensation model) by the spring of 2013. We will be bargaining a new contract with our teachers at that time, and these two important proposals will be presented to our bargaining team for inclusion in the next contract. All aspects of our work related to the CLASS project have been highly collaborative, and have included the input of many teachers and administrators across the Ashland School District. We hope to strengthen our already postive relationships by providing all teachers in our district the support and challenge that they need to continue to grow and learn as professional teachers throughout their career.

Juli Di Chiro is Ashland School District superintendent.