Six steps to effective teacher development and evaluation

By Vicki Phillips and Randi Weingarten
March 28th, 2013

‘Both of us have become increasingly concerned that states and districts are doing evaluation quickly instead of doing it right, which could have serious adverse effects,’ the authors write.

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The New Republic. It’s reprinted here with permission from the American Federation of Teachers.)

Some see us as education’s odd couple—one, the president of a democratic teachers’ union; the other, a director at the world’s largest philanthropy.

While we don’t agree on everything, we firmly believe that students have a right to effective instruction and that teachers want to do their very best. We believe that one of the most effective ways to strengthen both teaching and learning is to put in place evaluation systems that are not just a stamp of approval or disapproval but a means of improvement. We also agree that in too many places, teacher evaluation procedures are broken—unconstructive, superficial, or otherwise inadequate. And so, for the past four years, we have worked together to help states and districts implement effective teacher development and evaluation systems carefully designed to improve teacher practice and, ultimately, student learning.

While many factors outside school affect children’s achievement, research shows that teaching matters more than anything else schools can do. Effective teaching is a complex alchemy—requiring command of subject matter, knowledge of how different children learn, and the ability to maintain order and spark students’ interest. Evaluation procedures must address this complexity—they should not only assess individual teachers but also help them continuously improve.

Yet both of us have become increasingly concerned that states and districts are doing evaluation quickly instead of doing it right, which could have serious adverse effects.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) study in 2009 to identify effective teaching using multiple measures of performance. The foundation also invested in a set of partnership sites that are redesigning how they evaluate and support teaching talent.

And the AFT has developed a continuous improvement model for teacher development and evaluation that is being adapted in scores of districts to help recruit, prepare, support, and retain a strong teaching force.

From our research, and the experiences of our state and district partners, we’ve learned what works in implementing high-quality teacher development and evaluation systems.

(Next page: The six keys to effective systems)

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3 Responses to “Six steps to effective teacher development and evaluation”

I find it very disconcerting that Vicki Phillips and Randi Weingarten blithely list six steps to achieve effective teacher evaluations. The assumption that the current, dysfunctional U.S. system of education can actually implement these recommendations is ludicrous. Never mind the throw-away comment that these reforms will “eventually” lead to improved student performance. The traditional paradigm from which these recommendations emanate does not provide the solution, it is the problem. Not a word here about the powerful potential of technology that promises to build in tracking of student achievement and appropriate interventions, thereby relieving the teacher from that responsibility and making everybody’s performance transparent and liable to continuous improvement.

Even more objectionable is Diane Ravitch’s vitriolic comments and her attribution of poor student performance to poverty and segregation. Her defense of teachers and her concern for their morale would be more credible if she gave a thought to providing them with the technological tools every other worker in the U.S. economy enjoys.

April 2, 2013

There are some very good thoughts in the article, but I didn’t see anything about a parent’s role in educating their child. It did mention that there are other factors than the schools involved, but I don’t believe that it gave much time to a portion of a child’s life that is so important! We all know that children from two-parent loving homes with high expectations for their children do better in school. This is not to say that others cannot rise above, but often that challenge is left squarely on the teacher’s shoulders and none of the responsibility placed on the home because basically the home life is pitiful.

If teachers had more time to prepare to teach and less time writing the curriculum to meet all of the guidelines, then maybe teaching would improve. We spend so much time rewriting curriculum that there is not much left to actually prepare. Our school district is on our third online curriculum system in six years, which means that every other year we have had to redo our entire curriculum, and hope that a few things will copy and paste so we don’t have to start from scratch. No two systems are alike so there is also a learning curve as to what the new system is asking for and just how it all fits together. So much time is wasted just reformatting existing information in order to please the government. It could be spent researching and developing lessons to better serve our students.

The old adage “practice makes perfect” never gets to the drawing board because everything is changing so fast. And, if you are fortunate enough to teach the same class as before, the standards have changed so you need to adjust everything to meet “new” standards. Now, I don’t mind revising my curriculum to help the students learn the materials better, but just for the sake of change is ridiculous.

The only thing all of this Federal involvement is going to do is to get teachers to retire sooner and no one to want to go into teaching. This needs to go back to state control at the very least. I love the kids, but I have a family also. It seems as though everyone expects miracles in 8 hours a day, and it’s okay if you spend every minute of your own time doing whatever needs done for the students, plus sponsoring all the before- and after-school extracurricular activities. Because, after all, you get summers off (for professional development, workshops, and conferences, plus preparing for the next year).

We do need to implement new technology as much as possible, but we also need time to learn it. Most of the time I learn right alongside the students, which isn’t always bad; but it could be better if I had time to prepare.

Most parents think that “bad” teachers cannot be fired. This is untrue. Principals just need to do their job of evaluation effectively, then the paper trail will show that the teacher needs to improve or be fired.

I want to do my very best for my students, but time and money will not always let me. I try to do the best I can with what I have.

Maybe the legislators should have to educate their constituents, test them on the issues to make sure that they understand, and then be paid on how many of them actually make it to the polls and vote. Just a thought, the legislators pay can be based on their constituents performance.