Of all the changes facing busy educators across the nation presently, few if any have caused as much concern and angst as the new teacher evaluation systems nearly all states have rushed to adopt.
Many of these system adoptions have been in response to state applications for Race To The Top (RTT) grant awards which bring with them the promise of large sums of federal dollars at a time when funds are hard to come by. In addition, new evaluation systems have been pursued in response to waiver applications for states seeking to lessen the rigidity of sanctions imposed by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) originally passed in 1965. The latest reauthorization of this act, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), can lead to sanctions as a result of states not meeting all of the rigorous requirements laid out in its latest iteration. Throw into this mix the adoption of new academic content standards in the form of Common Core State Standards (or state sanctioned versions similar to these more rigorous standards) along with new next-generation assessments designed to measure these new educational benchmarks and many would say that the stage has been set for the “perfect storm.”
Due to a lack of focus created by many high-profile initiatives being implemented simultaneously, many of the state adopted systems for teacher evaluation suffer from four distinct ‘potholes’ that could cause serious damage to the goal of effective teacher evaluation. The four areas of concern are:
- Using inappropriate evidence of a teacher’s quality
- Improperly weighting appropriate evidence of a teacher’s quality
- Failing to adjust evidence weights for a given teacher’s instructional setting
- Confounding the functions of formative and summative teacher evaluation.
Using inappropriate evidence, such as many of the state assessments proposed in nearly all systems, is done so with no shred of evidence supporting the validity of the use of such evidence in determining teacher quality. Weighting certain evidence sources similarly for all teachers assumes that all teachers work in cookie-cutter situations with no variation outside of the teacher’s direct control. Lastly, summative and formative evaluations are undertaken for two completely different outcomes. The inappropriate confluence of the two can render both of little or no effect.
The Corwin Teacher Evaluation Consulting solution offers clear-headed guidance on how to address these issues. Based on the five-step research-informed process created by evaluation and assessment guru Jim Popham, the CTEC provides onsite seminars and follow-up coaching for states, districts, or schools in creating defensible and sensible teacher evaluation systems designed to effectively provide teacher evaluation that both meets federal expectations, but most importantly, provide teachers and systems evaluative information that makes sense and is useful.
Presently, how is your state, district, or school addressing the four areas of concern? How can you be assured that the system that you are using to evaluate teachers is fair and defensible?