EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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March 28, 2012

'Teachers of concern' face review

Will be subject to classroom observation

LAWRENCE — Up to 75 permanent teachers in the Lawrence Public Schools learned from their principals Monday that they must undergo a rigorous review involving unannounced classroom observations that may determine whether they keep their jobs next year.

The classroom evaluators — retired school superintendents working under the direction of Dale R. Libkin, the new assistant superintendent of teacher effectiveness — could begin the reviews of "teachers of concern" as early as today in a process that is expected to last through mid-June, according to Superintendent/receiver Jeffrey C. Riley.

The teachers who will be subject to close scrutiny represent 5 to 8 percent of the 900-plus permanent teachers in the education system with more than three years experience who have attained professional status. They were identified either because of a recent principal assessment, their work history or because their classroom performance "raises concerns" about their teaching capabilities, Riley said.

"It's the beginning of a new process of accountability," Riley said in an interview last night of the unprecedented teacher reviews he has ordered under special powers granted him as a result of the state takeover of the city's education system, which serves some 13,000 students.

"Historically, few school systems across the country actually go to this detail in observation of teachers. But we're going to raise the bar in our expectations and we expect great things from our teachers," Riley said.

Riley, now on the job about 2 1/2 months, has begun an aggressive review of teachers as part of a major turnaround process that he's overseeing as a result of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education declaring Lawrence Public Schools a Level 5 "chronically underperforming" school district late last November.

"Since I have been on the ground, I've spent a lot of time in the classrooms of every school and I've found that the majority of our teachers are doing a great job," Riley stressed.

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