"We are in a numbers game now and that's been a huge change. I've been in education for 31 years and the pressure is the greatest I've ever seen," said Shippensburg High School Principal Bruce Levy.
In the past, teachers have been evaluated solely based on classroom observations. Starting this year, observations will be more thorough, and student performance will make up 50 percent of a teacher's rating.
"Most teachers, I do believe, do a good job. But I think the state was seeing that a huge percentage of teachers were getting satisfactories. And yet, students' scores were not where they were supposed to be," said Levy.
In addition to the traditional classroom observations, teachers will now face more diverse criteria for their evaluations. Elective data lets each school district choose their own methods to measure student performance. Teacher specific data focuses on student improvement within their own classroom. Building level data factors in student test scores for an entire school, which means a teacher's evaluation will also depend on how all teachers and students at the school are doing overall.
"Teachers are very concerned, for instance, how their peers are doing as well because what their peers are doing are going into the building data too," said Levy.
In addition, the increased emphasis on student performance has led to some concerns about the possibility of teachers and administrators submitting tests that have been tampered with.
"Our scores were not so good last year and we weren't doing anything to change the data. But the pressure is great that the data must be good. And I just think that we owe it to ourselves, though, to be above board and to be ethical about the whole thing," said Levy.
The new evaluation model will be gradually implemented in phases over the next three years.