When schools began piloting Kentucky’s

Third-grade teacher Jennifer Maddox helps Kaitlyn Layer follow the directions while folding a paper airplane at Perryvillle Elementary School (Boyle County). Maddox was teaching about technical procedures. Photo by Amy Wallot, March 25, 2014

Third-grade teacher Jennifer Maddox helps Kaitlyn Layer follow the directions while folding a paper airplane at Perryvillle Elementary School (Boyle County). Maddox was teaching about technical procedures.
Photo by Amy Wallot, March 25, 2014

Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES), Boyle County school district administrators naturally had some questions about how their current practices and vision would be affected.

“It was very stressful because it felt like something else on our plate. Honestly, we were worried that PGES might slow us down,” said Assistant Superintendent David Young, whose district was already focused on improvement efforts that led to it being named a 2011-12 District of Distinction, and receiving a distinguished rating on K-PREP testing for 2013.

Those questions were soon answered, however, and Boyle County Schools is now on the fast track to showing the positive impact PGES will have on Kentucky school districts once statewide implementation gets underway in the 2014-15 school year. During a recent district leadership group assessment of what PGES requirements the district already had in place compared to what still needed to be done, administrators knew things would fall into place if they could seamlessly bridge any gaps between the two. They soon realized that by delving into the core of PGES – using multiple measures to evaluate teachers and assess student growth with the vision of putting a highly effective teacher in every classroom and a highly effective leader in every school – educators already were doing a lot of the basic elements.

“In our district, we have a great understanding what the most effective principals do. They observe teachers and give specific, meaningful feedback,” Superintendent Mike LaFavers said. “They meet with teachers regularly to look at their student data and to measure how well their students are growing academically. Finally, they create a good balance between content mastery growth and growth of skills. Similarly, our best teachers have a systematic way of managing and using student data, setting growth goals with students and measuring growth regularly.

“While PGES is a new system, those things are not new,” LaFavers added.

Jennifer Maddox, a primary teacher at Perryville Elementary School, agreed.

“We’ve always completed growth plans every year that list areas we want to strengthen as a teacher,” Maddox said. “We will continue to do this with PGES. However, we will fill it out online instead of paper. It is a very easy process.”

Once administrators realized it isn’t a complete overhaul of procedure, the conversation around PGES changed dramatically: there wasn’t as much on their plate as they originally thought.

“It was like we flipped a switch,” Young said. “Why don’t we simply design a PGES system that clearly defines what great principals and teachers should do? If we build that system, we will have clearly set the expectation. Our staff can rise to meet that expectation and be rewarded on their evaluation for doing so. They will grow as professionals, and our students will ultimately benefit.”

Boyle County is now immersed in making that PGES plan a reality. Young says that the work of the district’s 50/50 committee primarily will be focused on defining several of the variables:

  • What data will be collected by the teacher and principal to discuss during data conferences? How much will be subjective data versus objective data?
  • What skills should be the focus when measuring student growth?
  • How will the system remain balanced – not all skill measurement, but a balance of growth measurement in both content mastery and skills?
  • When measuring content and skill growth can instructional strategies already in place in many of classrooms be effectively incorporated? (Literacy Design Collaborative, Mathematics Design Collaborative, project-based learning, interdisciplinary problem sets and performance-based assessment tasks)

Jennifer Newby, Boyle County Schools board member, thinks that setting clear, high expectations through PGES fits right in with what makes the Boyle County community a special place to live and work.

“As a board member, I really value the fact that our community has high expectations for everything we do, inside or outside the school system,” Newby said. “The more I learn about our PGES plan, I can clearly see the theme of high expectations. That makes all the difference to me.”

Perryville Elementary School Principal Christopher Slone appreciates the multiple sources of data that will be used to determine teacher effectiveness.

“It will no longer be an evaluation developed from simply observations, individual growth plan and pre- and post-observation conferences, but an effectiveness analysis over the course of an academic year,” Slone said. “I like the student voice element that PGES provides, too, giving teachers not only direct input from their evaluator, but from their students as well.”

That student voice will play a key role in the level of effectiveness that teachers will build in the classroom, Slone said.

“In our district an effective teacher is a teacher who truly understands his or her instructional standards and has a commitment to teaching those standards, assessing those standards and providing a system of intervention and/or enrichment,” he said. “The difference between an effective teacher and a highly effective teacher will be the student component as it relates to the Danielson Framework and the student growth goals.”

The bottom line for Boyle County Schools administrators, LaFavers said, is that it’s a new day for school districts in Kentucky, and districts that fully invest in PGES will see positive outcomes.

“We are now viewing PGES as a game changer,” LaFavers said. “It is a powerful next step for us. Designed well, our PGES plan has the potential to support a higher level of growth and performance in our employees than ever before. Ultimately, our students win. We are excited about this opportunity.”


Mike LaFavers, mike@lafavers@boyle.kyschools.us, (859) 236-6634
David Young, david.young@boyle.kyschools.us, (859) 236-6634
Christopher Slone, christopher.slone@boyle.kyschools.us, (859) 936-7500
Jennifer Maddox, jennifer.maddox@boyle.kyschools.us, (859) 936-7500