Teacher observations discussed at B-P

BROADALBIN – Broadalbin-Perth Central School District officials and teachers have been discussing changes to the format of classroom observations.

At Monday’s meeting of the Board of Education, Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson stressed this is only in the discussion phase, but the idea is to increase the number of in-class observations from two per year to as many as 14 per year.

“This is all still in the planning,” Tomlinson said.

He said after each brief classroom visit, the administrator would meet with the teacher to discuss what was observed during the visit.

Since the visits would be more frequent, the time spent in the classroom each time would be shorter – approximately 10 to 15 minutes. The increased number of visits would give administrators a better idea of how each teacher is doing in engaging the students to learn, Tomlinson said.

Now, an administrator could spend four hours with one teacher per visit, a total of eight hours per school year.

In the present format, one of the two annual visits is scheduled in advance, so the teacher can prepare strong lesson and unit plans for that day, leaving the administrator little room for constructive criticism.

“There wasn’t much that we could complain about when going in, but is that really reality?” Tomlinson asked. “If you … talk to any teachers, they will tell you the amount of time that they had to put into creating that dog-and-pony show.”

He said the proposed changes could begin as a pilot program in which teachers could volunteer to try the new format, but a formal change to the procedure would require an agreement between the district and the teachers union.

Board President Edward Szumowski asked Monday if the administration had any inkling about the union’s reaction to the proposal.

Tomlinson said teachers were presented the idea last April and seemed to be OK with the transition.

“What I can tell you is that union leadership has a perception about how things should be, and then the rank-and-file have a perception of how things should be,” Tomlinson said. “I am very confident that the rank-and-file are very much in tune to this.”

He said the union leadership will want to make sure that “every T is crossed and every I is dotted” so the teachers would be protected under the new observation model.

“I do believe that a majority of our teaching staff, in any one of our four buildings, believes that this is going to be a more fruitful manner in which to evaluate teaching,” Tomlinson said. “What I mean by that is that it’s going to help them become better and I do believe that any one of our teachers truly wants to become better.”

Levi Pascher can be reached at lpascher@leaderherald.com.