At ABC Unified, teachers and district leaders worked together for three years to come up with what both sides agreed was a fair system for evaluating teachers. Although student assessment data are used to help guide instruction, these results are not part of the district’s teacher evaluation system.
“You want teachers looking at data, re-teaching, reassessing, and doing intervention,” Smuts said, explaining that teachers might not be as receptive to collecting and using student data to improve their teaching if they thought the results might be used against them. He added: “Teachers are the toughest people on teachers that I know.”
Responding to the common complaint that unions do too much to protect poor teachers, Rico said: “I don’t know of any teacher who wants an ineffective teacher in front of students.”
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ABC Unified’s teacher evaluation system has a strong support structure in place for helping teachers who are struggling to succeed. Called PASS (for Peer Assistance, Support, and Service), the system pairs new or struggling teachers with a veteran teaching mentor to give them assistance.
If a teacher is still ineffective after a year of support in the PASS program, “I’ll make sure you have due process,” Rico said, “but if you’re not cutting it, then we’re going to counsel you out of the profession.”
She added: “We’re not going to let you fail—but we’re not going to let our students fail, either.”
Montgomery County does use student achievement data—including student and parent surveys—as one of several indicators of teacher quality, thanks to an agreement signed last April by district and union leaders.
Like ABC Unified, Montgomery County has a mentoring and support system in place for teachers who are struggling, and it offers a similar service for administrators and support staff. But the differences in how the two districts define and measure teacher quality demonstrate that every situation is unique, and districts will have to find their own solutions that both labor and management can agree on.
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