Colleague coaching system to continue with teachers in Albert Lea schools

Published 7:53 pm Monday, June 4, 2018

Thirteen years since its inception, the Alternative Teacher Performance Pay System in use in Albert Lea Area Schools moves into another year, continuing with increased observation and a reworked incentive system.

ATPPS district coordinator Julie Eaton said at the school board meeting Monday that these changes occurred for the 2017-18 school year and will move forward into 2018-19.

According to Eaton, the goal of ATPPS is to improve instructional practices, increase student achievement, provide professional development and encourage collaboration among teachers. They do this through weekly professional learning community meetings divvied up by grade or subject.

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“(We’re) really looking at the data, looking at what we have in terms of curriculum and how we can best meet the needs of our students so that they are understanding all the standards that they should be,” Eaton said.

ATPPS also involves teacher evaluation and peer review, which Eaton said has developed within the last few years to focus on setting and working toward teacher goals rather than evaluating a teacher’s best lesson. It involves an instructional coaching cycle that begins with a pre-conference and works through goal setting, observing, data collecting, debriefing and planning until the process starts over again. Eaton said there were more instructional coaching cycles completed this year than in the past.

“It’s been exciting for us,” she said.

Teachers can also utilize three informal observations, in which a teacher can observe another to see how their colleague is effectively employing strategies the teacher may want to improve on. This is one of three types of possible observation.

“It’s not just one observation,” Eaton said. “It’s multiple observations, multiple times for reflection.”

The 2017-2018 school year also saw money change pots for the performance pay incentive, which Eaton said put less weight on a SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely — goal based on student achievement. The change lowered the incentive to $50 in this category out of a possible $1300 total, which Director of Secondary Programs Kathy Niebuhr said is in addition to a teacher’s salary. The purpose of the change, Eaton said, is to avoid teachers meeting a goal for the purpose of meeting a goal.

Instead, the incentive system increased the PLC attendance/cycle work to $800 last school year.

“We beefed up that money because that’s where our focus is,” Eaton said.

The performance pay incentive of $1,300 is to remain the same for the 2018-19 school year, Eaton said. Money not awarded to teachers goes back into professional development dollars at the building level, said Albert Lea Area Schools Superintendent Mike Funk.

“I think it’s really developed to be something fantastic,” school board chairman Ken Petersen said of the program.

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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