New Law Excludes Charter School Teachers from Revised Evaluations

 In 2013-14, public schools across the state will be required to consider student performance when evaluating teachers — except for charter schools.

The General Assembly last week approved legislation that requires half of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on observation and half on various measures of student performance. Under the old law, considering student performance is not required in teacher evaluations.

Ron Cowell, president of the Education Policy and Leadership Center, a nonprofit based in Harrisburg, said changing the teacher evaluation process was necessary, but he called excluding charter school teachers from the requirement a “serious omission.”

“I think the law generally emphasizes charter schools are public schools, and there really is no good reason to not create the same kind of evaluation and accountability system for educators in charter schools,” Mr. Cowell said.

Critics accuse Gov. Tom Corbett, who championed the proposal, of opposing public schools and favoring charter schools.

Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said, “I don’t want to bash charter schools, but it is unfair and unconscionable that charter schools have so many exemptions for rules that public schools have to follow.

“Gov. Corbett is so [anti-regular public schools] and pro-charter schools.”

But state education officials defend the measure.

Tim Eller, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said in an email, “Since the beginning, charter schools have never been subjected to Section 1123 of the Public School Code, which is where the educator evaluation language is found.

“Furthermore, charter schools are choice schools in which parents have the option to remove their child if they are not satisfied with the education their child receives.”

State Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, could not be reached for comment.

State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-Chester, minority education committee chairman, said charter school teachers need to be included.

Click here to read the full article by Amy McConnell Schaarsmith and Eleanor Chute Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 5, 2012)
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