The Hawaii Department of Education is making 18 major changes to the new teacher evaluation system that officials say will significantly reduce its burden on educators and improve teaching quality by focusing on the instructors most in need of a boost.

The controversial evaluations, which were implemented statewide this past year and will start affecting pay next school year, have been criticized by teachers and principals who said the system was so time-consuming, impractical and unfair that it was taking a toll on student learning

The changes range from cutting the frequency of key requirements in half to eliminating the student surveys for teachers who work with kids in grades kindergarten through second.TeacherEvaluation

The department will simplify the system, streamline its components and vary the approach for teachers at different proficiency levels, according to DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, who signed off on the changes Thursday. The department employs 12,500 teachers.

The system will now contain four components, down from five. That fifth component — comprised of the contentious student surveys — is now being incorporated into an existing metric called “Core Professionalism,” which counts for a fifth of teachers’ ratings and looks at their contributions outside the classroom.

“These changes are just the beginning to refining this system and ultimately, elevating student achievement,” Matayoshi said in a statement Thursday. The system was first piloted in schools in 2011.

The updated system is the product of a year’s worth of deliberations by an eight-member joint committee. That committee, convened by the DOE and the Hawaii State Teachers Association, includes a union representative, a teacher, a principal, a complex-area superintendent and several administrators.

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