The Dallastown Area School District has been approved by the state Department of Education to use its own teacher evaluation forms, which will be used starting at the end of this semester.

Assistant Superintendent Joshua Doll said the school was one of only four schools in the state to be permitted to use a different form from what the department supplies to school districts.

The forms are the start of a new teacher evaluation system, in place across the state to fulfill federal grant requirements. All teachers in Pennsylvania will be scored according to the new form this year, and principals will be evaluated starting next year.

Doll said the Dallastown forms were approved by the department after much "spirited" conversation back and forth, and said the department made few changes to the proposed forms the district will use to evaluate its professional staff.

The state released its own evaluation form in June 2013 for school districts across the state to use, but allowed individual districts to propose their own evaluation tools.

The option was granted to encourage the state's heritage of local control, department spokesman Tim Eller said.

Eller said schools make decisions in the best interest of students, families and staff. Districts that chose to submit their own form were required to show it was at the same standard of rigor the state form outlines.

Different form: Dallastown applied to use an alternate form in July 2013 and created the forms to mirror the district's "Model of Teaching," Doll said. The model was adopted more than seven years ago as a training tool for all Dallastown staff.

Dallastown used specific wording on the form about how teachers will be evaluated, to reflect that model. A large portion — 60 percent — will be based on "classroom strategies and behavior," instead of categories such as "classroom environment" and "instruction" on the state form.

The evaluation form will be one of four parts of a teacher's overall score. Those parts will be weighted differently over the next four years, but include the teacher observation and practice rating, which is the score associated with the evaluation forms.

The other three parts of the score are the building level rating from the school performance profile, teacher-specific data such how students show growth over time and elective data such as how teachers are meeting classroom goals.

The district is appreciative the department valued the school's "seriousness and sincerity" in aligning the evaluation tool with the existing teaching model, Doll said in an email.

The school board voted unanimously Jan. 16 to approve the forms for use in Dallastown classrooms starting this year.

The evaluation tool will be used for the first time at the end of this semester, scheduled to be Tuesday, Jan. 28.

— Reach Nikelle Snader at nsnader@yorkdispatch.com.