We have to do what? The new face of teacher evaluations

Technology is key to successful teacher evaluations

teacher-evaluations As someone you’d politely call a “veteran educator,” I’ve been fortunate to work in schools for more than a quarter century, and in that time, like all of us in school leadership, I’ve seen many ideas come and go, often without lasting impact–or even much temporary effect–on our daily work. Even veteran educators, however, will admit that new teacher evaluation laws are what they call “a game changer”—one of those professional events that could not help but get our attention.

In 2011, our work changed dramatically. Teacher effectiveness laws put into place during a wave of legislative action in more than 20 states ultimately magnified a focus on the teacher evaluation process and asked hard questions about what we expect–and what we inspect–about the work of teaching and learning in public schools. Our best common sense, and even some research, tells us that the quality and outcomes of a child’s learning are often greatly impacted by the strength—or weakness—of his or her teachers. Thus, this heightened focus on how we define teacher effectiveness, and how we develop it, is not unimportant.

For most of my career, I can honestly say that I did not experience teacher evaluation as a serious event in the life of a school. Evaluations might consist of a principal or department chair colleague coming briefly into my class, watching a lesson, and writing up a narrative or checking a list of skills I showed. As I became more experienced, this process gave way to a brief conversation about my annual goals and a nice narrative paragraph thanking me for my service. Some colleagues I know went years without anyone actually watching them teach or talking to them about the results of their work with students. New law requires annual evaluation for every licensed working teacher in our state based on multiple measures including classroom observations and documented results of student learning. Did I say game change?…Read More

How effective are student surveys in teacher evaluations?

Should student surveys hold weight in teacher evaluations?

Student surveys about their classroom teachers have merit and could be useful, but school leaders should take care to not be too influenced by student feedback, according to a new review of a large-scale study of teacher effectiveness.

A report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Measures of Effective Teaching” (MET) Project gives advice on administering and using information from student surveys to evaluate teachers and provide feedback to them.

Asking Students about Teaching” aims to learn whether student surveys are a valid tool to help evaluate teachers. The report also offers guidance and best practices for using student feedback surveys.…Read More

Seeking aid, school districts change teacher evaluations

In an exercise evoking a corporate motivation seminar, a group of public school teachers and principals clustered around posters scrawled with the titles of Beatles songs. Their assignment: choose the one that captured their feelings about a new performance evaluation system being piloted in their district, the New York Times reports. Jessicca Shaffer, a fifth-grade teacher in this suburban community northeast of Boulder, joined the group assembled around “Eight Days a Week.” (Other options: “We Can Work It Out” and “Help!”)

“If we truly had 52 weeks of school a year, we still would not have enough time to do everything we have to do,” Ms. Shaffer said, sounding a common note of exasperation. “I am supersaturated.”

An elementary school literacy coach wondered whether the evaluations would produce anything other than extra paperwork. “Are they going to be giving us true feedback?” she asked. “Or are they just going to be filling out a form?”…Read More

Fact check: Romney off on Obama’s love for unions

Romney's description of the success of a school voucher program in Washington, D.C., also doesn't match up with Department of Education evaluations.

When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney decried President Barack Obama as beholden to the nation’s teachers’ unions and unable to stand up for reform, he glossed over four years of a relationship that has been anything but cozy.

Obama has promoted initiatives that encourage districts to tie teacher evaluations to student performance and to expand the number of charter schools—actions the teacher unions have long been against, and which Romney himself promoted May 23 in a speech in Washington, D.C., outlining his education platform.

He also painted a bleak picture of a country where millions of kids are getting a “third-world education” and whose international standing has fallen far behind, an assertion frequently used by politicians and debated by academics, though the most recent tests show that U.S. student scores haven’t changed significantly and remain about average.…Read More

Study: Once-a-year teacher evaluations not enough

College professors have been evaluated by their students for years.

Once-a-year evaluations aren’t enough to help teachers improve, says a report by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

And school districts using infrequent classroom observations to decide who are their best—and their worst—teachers could be making some big mistakes, according to the second part of a multi-year study from the foundation.

Preliminary results were posted online Jan. 6.…Read More

States strengthening teacher evaluation standards

In one state, 35% of a teacher's evaluation is based on student growth on the state standardized test over time.

Teachers and principals’ own report cards are getting a lot more attention.

The way educators are evaluated is changing across the country, with a switch from routine “satisfactory” ratings to actual proof that students are learning.

President Barack Obama’s recent use of executive authority to revise the No Child Left Behind education law is one of several factors driving a trend toward using student test scores, classroom observation and potentially even input from students, among other measures, to determine just how effective educators are.…Read More

Self-grading and more: New methods in teacher evaluation gain traction

Last year, Mosinee Middle School social studies teacher Paul Nievinski chose a new evaluation process his school district offered for experienced teachers, wausuadailyherald reports. Instead of having his principal sit in his class for several hours during the school year, Nievinski created a professional development plan by evaluating his own performance, setting specific goals for himself and then following up with administrators…

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Union shifts position on teacher evaluations

Catching up to the reality already faced by many of its members, the nation’s largest teachers’ union on Monday affirmed for the first time that evidence of student learning must be considered in the evaluations of school teachers around the country, the New York Times reports. In passing the new policy at its assembly here, the 3.2 million-member union, the National Education Association, hopes to take a leadership role in the growing national movement to hold teachers accountable for what students learn–an effort from which it has so far conspicuously stood apart…

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Georgia hires team to work on teacher pay plan

Saying they lack the expertise internally, the Georgia Department of Education plans to spend $758,000 to bring in outside help to develop a system for evaluating teachers and administrators based on how their students perform academically, reports AJC. As the state looks at linking students’ performance to teachers’ pay, the department wants a team of experts on teacher quality and evaluations to take the lead on creating the new and uniform system for evaluating Georgia’s 143,000 teachers and school administrators. The team will be headed by James Stronge, professor of educational policy, planning and leadership at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

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Cuomo seeks speedy change in teacher evaluations

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Tuesday that he would introduce legislation to speed the implementation of a statewide system to evaluate teachers’ performance, reports the New York Times. His announcement came minutes after the State Senate passed legislation sought by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg that would reverse a rule protecting long-serving New York City teachers from layoffs regardless of their effectiveness…

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Midwestern states revamp teacher evaluations; Duncan talks education, technology

Illinois is not alone in the recent changes it has made to teacher evaluations. Several other Midwestern states are taking similar steps, reports the Catalyst Chicago. But a new analysis by nonprofit education consulting group Learning Point Associates has found that “most of the states do not have a cohesive, intentional system for developing, recruiting and retaining effective teachers and school leaders.” States do not invest much time or effort assessing their programs’ results, the analysis found, and supports for principal recruitment and retention lag behind those for teachers. “Although six of the seven states have established standards for principals, the number and scope of policies aimed at improving the quality of school leadership is limited…  there are few initiatives aimed at improving the recruitment, hiring, induction, working conditions, or compensation for principals despite evidence that these factors strongly influence decisions to become school leaders,” the group said in a news release…

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