Guest view: teachers’ report points in right direction

Teacher evaluation: a new direction. A guest response to Teachers’ Report Points in Right Direction report on teacher evaluation has some pondering and comparing some controversial issues. Teacher evaluations take on yet another over-haul in thinking.

Here’s the response to my last blog post from my collegue, Susan “Ernie” Rambo. She has been a guest blogger here before.

Hi Renee,

I’ve read the report on teacher evaluation several times now and find myself comparing it to what my school district might have in store for us in the near future. Both the governor of our state and our school district’s new superintendent are recommending that we adopt similar measures to evaluate our teachers. What I like most about the report, is that it includes teachers in the decision-making process of creating and implementing the four distinct areas of teacher evaluations. Bill Ferriter stated it quite well in his blog when he mentioned that the work of the Denver New Millennium Initiative (DNMI) extended the work of policy-makers so that teacher evaluation reform can become a reality instead of a “half-baked plan!”

Rather than dismiss any weaknesses within the Colorado policy, the DNMI made recommended several reality-based ways to strengthen the policy.

The group focused on four areas within their state’s new policy:

  1. Developing meaningful measures of student growth (including in non-tested areas) to comprise 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.
  2. Defining qualifications and training for evaluators.
  3. Determining how to account for school conditions and student factors in a teacher’s evaluation.
  4. Designing an evaluation system that informs both employment decisions and professional growth and learning.

You mentioned how the recommendations for the qualifications and training of peer evaluators reminded you of the training for scoring National Board of Professional Teaching Standards portfolios. I was also reminded of that process as I read the suggestion that teachers create individual growth goals related to their schools’ growth plans, and develop the tools to measure their progress toward meeting those goals. Such work requires teachers to reflect on the needs of their students and why they choose specific strategies to support those needs, much like the work required in attaining National Board Certification.

I am especially interested in the DNMI’s recommendations for using teachers in hybrid roles – part time teaching and part time evaluating their peers – to improve the evaluation process of teachers. A national professional development organization, Learning Forward, recommends that every teacher, as well as every student, learns every day. A well-designed peer-evaluation system would generate an atmosphere where all educators could improve their practice through the proven application of reflection and action. The DNMI suggests using teachers in hybrid roles to first be trained, then master, and then train others to apply an evaluation process. Being evaluated by a peer, experiencing the same challenges as I do in the classroom, would maintain much more credibility than the brief visits of an over-burdened administrator who might or might not have time to visit the classroom during the year.

I commend the DNMI for putting forth the suggestion that teachers’ evaluations should include a professional development component. The recommendation of using a professional guild to design personal professional development activities for teachers based on their evaluations would be a welcome improvement to the traditional “one-size-fits-all” and “sit and get” professional development provided at many schools. I would also like to see a component that includes each teacher using student achievement data and peer evaluation results to plan a personal professional development plan that utilizes the offerings of both the professional guild and external resources.

In my work with other teachers at the Center for Teaching Quality in studying Teacher Working Conditions, we recommended that teachers should be provided with High Quality Professional Development that focuses on meeting the unique needs of their students.The DNMI report extends this concept when they describe using teacher-evaluation rubrics that are created by the state but also include locally-based options for criteria that are based on local goals and concerns. Additionally, the component that encourages teachers to conduct action research toward goal attainment, as you mentioned in your letter, is a most powerful tool that allows teachers to substantiate the choices they make in their classrooms that impact student learning. What works in one classroom might work in another, but each teacher needs time and support to reflect upon and evaluate chosen strategies to determine their effectiveness.

Despite the concerns with using test scores to evaluate teachers, the Denver group has published realistic suggestions for how our schools can move toward continuous learning and higher achievement of our students.I look forward to more news from this group and from you, as we experience the changes in store for us.




Anybody else think the teachers are pointing us in the right directon on developing effective teacher evaluation systems? What do we need to do to get these ideas into policy?

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