Understanding the ‘why’ behind teacher evaluations is critical to their success
A poll released last week by USC and the LA Times tells us that the public approves of measuring teacher effectiveness through a combination of indicators including the academic growth of their students. The U.S. Department of Education has made measuring and improving teaching effectiveness a fundamental component of its reform efforts and requires it for many of its grant recipients. In California, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes has introduced AB 5, legislation requiring school districts to use multiple measures to determine teaching effectiveness, and a group of education reform advocates is suing LAUSD to require the district to develop meaningful evaluations of teacher effectiveness.
The College-Ready Promise (TCRP), a coalition of four of California’s highest performing charter schools (Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Aspire Public Schools, Green Dot Public Schools, and Partnership to Uplift Communities), has spent 18 months designing California’s largest teacher development system that incorporates multiple measures of effectiveness, including student growth data. This year, our 85 schools, with more than 1,600 teachers and 35,000 students, are implementing many of the system’s components.
What individual pieces comprise these evaluations is important and has often dominated the debate. However, why we perform these evaluations and how they are developed are just as important in determining whether these efforts will be successful at achieving larger objectives of improving student achievement or are going to be resisted and undermined before they are implemented.
The goal of our TCRP coalition is to double the college-readiness of our students in the next five years. The “why” for the development of our system is so that we may have real, robust data that will identify areas of strength and weakness in order to provide supports aligned to teachers’ needs. Once teachers receive an evaluation, they will have access to a web-based portal where they can review all of their data and access development tools tied directly to their results.
For example, if an evaluation finds that a teacher needs to improve on lesson planning, the system will provide instructions for accessing materials, mentoring, collaboration teams, and other supports to improve in that specific area. Assume every teacher wants to be the best teacher possible, and then design a system of evaluation and support that reflects that belief. Eventually, this data will be used to inform career path and compensation decisions, but not until after there is sufficient data to support those decisions.
Designing a system for, not to, teachers
The “how” starts with involving teachers. A lot of them. Hundreds of teachers in our schools participated in hours upon hours of advisory panel and focus group meetings where they offered feedback on every aspect of the teacher development system, from the observation rubric to the student growth measurements to the supports aligned to the evaluations. They helped design the student, family, and peer evaluations and became experts and resources for other teachers who wanted to know more about the system. Several of them piloted the system last spring to be able to provide feedback and improve the system before every teacher experienced it this fall. Remember, a teacher development system should be implemented for teachers, not to them. Involve them early and often in its development.
Finally, ensure a high level of confidence in the system by making certain that school leaders have been certified and trained to be reliable evaluators. Our principals, assistant principals, and others who perform the observations have gone through hours of training and are certified before observing teacher performance. Everyone in the process must be confident that the observations yield accurate results.
After first considering the “why” and how” we were able to produce the “what” that has the confidence of those who are involved in making it a useful system to support teachers and improve student achievement.
Our system provides teachers with a robust evaluation where, basically, 40% is based on measures of student academic growth, 40% comes from comprehensive classroom evaluations, and 20% comes from student and family feedback. For those teachers who teach subjects measured by a California Standardized Test (CST), the part of their evaluation tied to academic growth will be measured using Student Growth Percentiles (SGP).
SGP estimates how different each student’s achievement growth is in the current year from the expected growth for all students with similar starting points in the previous year. Due to a memorandum of understanding with LAUSD, The College Ready Promise’s charter management organizations (CMOs) will be able to compare our student-level achievement data with those of every student in LAUSD.
A growth percentile score is reported on a scale from 1-99 for every student. For example, one could say a student with a growth percentile score of 73 performed better than roughly 73 percent of students who had a similar starting point as measured by the prior year’s achievement. A growth percentile for a teacher is the median growth percentile for all the students in his or her class. Finally, a growth percentile for a school is the median growth percentile of all the students in the school.
For teachers in subjects where no CST is used, the CMOs are developing new assessments centered on previous CMO-based academic benchmarks, grade or school level achievement, and research-based assessments used elsewhere in the country.
California’s teachers have been through a lot during the last several years. Many less-experienced teachers are shuffled from school to school and grade to grade as budget cuts force perpetual pink slips. They are all being asked to do more with less as the state borrows money from the schools to fund other priorities. Yes, let’s find a way to accurately measure their effectiveness in the classroom – but let’s do it the right way and for the right reasons.
Judy Burton is president and CEO of the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, a non-profit charter management organization operating 14 high schools and 6 middle schools in low-income areas of Los Angeles. Before her current position, she served as superintendent of Local District B in the Los Angeles Unified School District where she led the largest of 11 local districts with 83 pre K–12 schools and early education centers serving more than 80,000 students in the North and Northeast San Fernando Valley school communities. She also served as the assistant superintendent where she headed the Office of School Reform for Los Angeles Unified.
- Understanding the ‘why’ behind teacher evaluations is critical to their success | The College Ready Promise
- Understanding the ‘why’ behind teacher evaluations is critical to their success | K-12 Exchange