by Maureen Anichini Lemon

The clock is ticking. If your District’s implementation date is September 2016 and if your District’s PERA Joint “Student Growth” committee formally began its work on November 1, 2015, your committee has until April 29, 2016 to complete its work. Keep in mind that the committee must agree on all aspects of incorporating data and indicators of student growth into the District’s teacher evaluation plan within 180 calendar days of the committee’s first official meeting. Any aspect of student growth that the committee does not agree upon within 180 calendar days (April 29, 2016 in most cases) will default to the ISBE State Performance Evaluation Model (“State Model”). For example, if your committee cannot agree whether student growth should account for 30%, 40% or 50% of the performance evaluation rating, the percentage will default to 50%, the percentage contained in the State Model.
If your committee is collaboratively reaching agreement on the myriad aspects of incorporating student growth into the District’s teacher evaluation plan, take a moment to congratulate yourselves. Then, have your committee take the following additional steps: 1) ensure that its agreements are in writing; 2) check the agreements against the State Model to confirm that the committee has not missed any component; and 3) Agree in writing that the committee’s decisions may be reviewed and revised as necessary, either by the committee as a whole or, perhaps, by an administration designee and union designee.
What if your committee is forced to use a default State Model component because the committee cannot reach an agreement prior to April 29th? May the committee subsequently agree to something that is not in the State Model if the committee later realizes that the State Model feature is not practical or beneficial? PERA remains silent on this issue. We recommend that you take the following steps to avoid this situation even if your committee cannot agree on all aspects of student growth. 1) have your committee meet a few days prior to the 180-day deadline (e.g., April 26 or 27); 2) at that meeting, identify any components of student growth upon which the committee has not yet reached agreement and upon which the District will be forced to use the default State Model language within a few days; and 3) if the committee still cannot reach agreement on any of those pieces, have the committee accept the default language as the committee’s “agreed upon” language on those pieces. By doing so, the component will not merely be the default language that would be forced upon the District in a few more days but, rather, becomes the agreed upon decision of the committee. Because the committee will have accepted the language as its own prior to the April 29, 2016 deadline, the language can be subject to revision, assuming the committee agrees that any of its decisions can be reviewed and revised as necessary.
Please call Maureen A. Lemon at (630) 682-0085 if you have additional questions regarding your PERA Joint Student Growth committee’s remaining work.