WOODSTOCK -- Enter Nick Zomer's seventh grade science classes at Dean Rusk Middle School, and it's immediately clear the students enjoy lively, upbeat lessons.
Zomer recently had to evaluate his performance as a teacher.
"Where I thought I was. What I thought my strengths were. Where I thought my weaknesses were," Zomer said of the evalutation.
The survey is part of Teacher Keys, Georgia's new teacher evaluation system that will become part of the lives of every public school teacher in the state next school year.
"Teacher Keys, as I see it, is a 360 degree view of teaching," said Dr. Pam Colvin, Administrator on Special Assignment: Race to the Top for Cherokee County Schools.
The entire Cherokee County School district served as a pilot for the system.
In addition to the teacher self-evaluation, an administration will do two 30-minute visits to a teacher's classroom during the year: one announced and one unannounced. In addition, the state has now added four unannounced walk-throughs, every 9 weeks, lasting 5 to 15 minute.
With each visit, the administrator is looking for 10 specific performance standards.
"They are the domains of instruction, or assessment and also learning environment and professionalism," Colvin said.
Another new aspect to the evaluation is how a teacher is graded.
"Under the old system, I only had satisfactory or needs improvement (as areas in which to evaluate)," said Dr. Adrian Thomason, principal.
Now, the evaluation "As you can see here I have exemplary, proficient, developing, needs improvement or ineffective."
But, what if the classroom observation time or walk-through doesn't exactly show a teacher meeting the specific standards?
"That teacher gets a chance to tell me, 'OK you didn't see this today, but two days ago, here's what I was doing,'" Thomason said. "I can look at you and say 'In these 7, you're proficient. In this one here, I'd love to see you develop. Let's talk about doing a book study here. On this one, let's talk about doing some professional development.' It becomes much more of a dialog than to say, between administrators and teachers, here's your grade."
So far, Zomer thinks the program works.
"Now, I'm getting actual feedback," Zomer said. "In this area you maybe you need to ramp some things up, try to improve yourself in this area, so it's actually genuine feedback that you can take and use and make yourself better."