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New evaluation aims to create better teachers and students

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GRAVES COUNTY, Ky. - A new teacher evaluation system designed in our area to create smarter students by training better teachers is now the standard across the state of Kentucky. The initiative for a new system started five years ago in Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, and Marshall counties. The Professional Growth and Effectiveness System, or PGES, focuses on ideas like self-reflection, student voice, and coaching. Administrators say the tool will keep good teachers in classrooms and weed out the ones who aren't getting through your kids.

Many school districts have been working through the summer to prepare teachers for some big changes that they're going to be held accountable for starting this school year. "It was all about trying to improve teacher quality, teacher effectiveness in the state of Kentucky," said Graves County Secondary Instructional Supervisor Carla Whitis. She's been involved in creating a new system for teachers and principals in Kentucky since day one.

"It's not just filling out an evaluation anymore. We are trying to, with this tool, actually create better teachers... which in turn will create better students," said Alison Gregory. She's the principal at Symsonia Elementary School and in charge of the coaching teachers will get to become more effective in the classroom. It's something not even those with tenure will be able to avoid. Gregory said, "If we want great teachers in the classroom, this will keep them there. But, this will also show if this isn't quite the career for you. You're not going to be able to hide what I would call bad teaching."

Teachers in each Graves County school have already exposed their students to the new standards. Elementary Instructional Supervisor Amanda Henson said, "Our instruction is being carried out like this currently. So,we feel like we are in really good shape for the upcoming school year."

PGES is going state-wide now, holding teachers to higher standards using a system that will also be evaluated itself. Whitis said, "Is it accomplishing what we want it to accomplish? Which is? More effective teachers, which also leads to students learning more and growing over that time period."

The program requires principals to do three in-class observations. Teachers rated as "ineffective" will be required to create a plan to improve. Principals will go through a calibration process every two years to make sure they're using the program correctly.

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