Mary Stadick Smith, SD Department of Education's Operations and Information Director, speaks about the department's plan for assessment for the 2013-14 school year.

Districts will have flexibility to use alternate teacher evaluation systems

The South Dakota Board of Education has passed rules that would provide school districts flexibility to use their own teacher evaluation systems, as long as those systems align with the South Dakota standards for teaching, are research based, and include a valid measure of student growth.

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SD Commission on Teaching and Learning develops model teacher effectiveness system

This story is the first in a series on the continuing development of South Dakota’s model teacher effectiveness system. Next month, we will focus on measures of student growth and in December, we will talk to educators who are implementing the system this year as part of a pilot program.

Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, South Dakota public school districts will be required to have teacher effectiveness systems in place. The South Dakota Commission on Teaching and Learning (CTL) has developed a model system that meets ESEA flexibility requirements and encourages meaningful evaluation and development of effective teaching. The CTL’s work builds on that of work groups that started this process in the summer of 2012.

The CTL is a partnership of the following entities:
• South Dakota Education Association
• Associated School Boards of South Dakota
• School Administrators of South Dakota
• South Dakota Department of Education

“This evaluation system represents tremendous opportunity for professional development. The system provides a framework for conversation between evaluators and those being evaluated,” said South Dakota Secretary of Education Melody Schopp. “At the end of the process, teachers have a clear understanding of what they can do to continually improve their instruction.”

The model system of evaluation is available for all South Dakota school districts to use. However, at its Oct. 1 meeting, the South Dakota Board of Education passed rules that would allow districts to use their own system for evaluating teachers, as long as the system aligns with the South Dakota standards for teaching, is research based, and includes a valid measure of student growth. Districts that are interested in taking advantage of this flexibility would need to apply to the Department of Education. (See related story under Hot Topics.)

“We’ve come a long way in developing this model. My congratulations go out to those educators who were a part of this process,” Dr. Schopp said. “It was extremely difficult but meaningful work.”

Teacher Effectiveness Model

The model teacher evaluation system is based on a clear set of objectives. The goal is to provide regular opportunities for educators to engage in professional conversations focused on improving instructional practice:

1. The purpose of the teacher evaluation is to continually improve instruction and student learning.

2. The evaluation process encourages professional teacher-administrator relationships as a basis for structuring meaningful, in-depth dialogue focused on student learning.

3. The evaluation process uses multiple measures of teaching practice and student growth to meaningfully differentiate teacher performance.

4. The evaluation process communicates clearly defined expectations and provides regular, timely, and useful feedback that guides professional growth for teachers.

5. The evaluation process is a fair, flexible, and research-based mechanism to create a culture in which data drives instructional decisions.

6. The evaluation process will be used to inform personnel decisions.

Under the model system, teachers will receive both a professional practice rating and a student growth rating. The two separate ratings are combined using a summative rating matrix. This tool provides the opportunity for evaluators to exercise professional judgment prior to classifying teacher performance into one of three categories (Below Expectations, Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations).

The recommended method does not rely on a uniform formula to calculate effectiveness ratings. Instead, the method prioritizes professional practices relative to the South Dakota Framework for Teaching (Charlotte Danielson model), while also incorporating evaluations of student growth as one significant factor.

Click here to view graphic summary.


The professional practice rating is based on the state’s professional teaching standards known as the South Dakota Framework for Teaching. Evaluations are supported by evidence gathered through formal observation and by other evidence demonstrating performance relative to the teaching standards. The teaching standards include 22 components grouped into four domains:

1) Planning and Preparation
2) Classroom Environment
3) Instruction
4) Professional Responsibilities


Quantitative measures of student growth are the other significant factor in determining and differentiating teacher effectiveness. Data from state standardized tests must be one of the quantitative measures used to evaluate the performance of teachers who provide instruction in state-tested grades and subjects.

Given that the state assessment is administered to limited grade levels and subject areas, it is important to note that the model system includes a common process for evaluating student growth for the broad range of teachers. Evaluators and teachers collaborate in a goal-setting process and the establishment of Student Learning Objectives, or SLOs, which serve as the foundation for evaluating a teacher’s impact on student growth. These SLOs reflect a rigorous, yet realistic expectation of student growth that can be achieved during the instructional period.

“Using student growth, as opposed to student achievement results from a single test delivered once a year, is much more reflective of the impact an individual teacher has on student learning,” Dr. Schopp said.


The model system includes the following observation schedule to support the professional practice piece of evaluation:

• Probationary teachers (teachers in years one through three of continuous employment)
    º Two formal observations of professional practice per year; one completed prior to Oct. 31 and a second completed prior to Jan. 31
    º Four informal observations per year; one prior to the first formal observation, then the remainder delivered throughout the year

• Non-probationary teachers (teachers in their fourth contract and beyond)
    º One formal observation of professional practice per year
    º Four informal observations per year

Training to support professional practice evaluations will be delivered through Teachscape Focus, a comprehensive web-based training program aligned to the South Dakota Framework for Teaching. Teachscape Focus provides in-depth training for both teachers and evaluators. The state is providing this tool to all public school districts.

Training related to SLOs also will be offered beginning spring 2014.

To learn more about the model teacher effectiveness system being piloted this year, view the South Dakota Teacher Effectiveness Handbook.

Contact Carla Leingang with any questions.