Washington, D.C. — As school districts across the nation continue to confront the challenge of how best to evaluate the performance of educators, the Center for American Progress today released a pair of reports detailing one district’s efforts to develop and implement a new evaluation system in a cooperative manner with its teachers.
In the past few years, nearly all states have passed legislation that revises how teachers are evaluated. Reforms around teacher evaluation and, in particular, efforts to assess teachers on the basis of student achievement have sometimes resulted in confrontations between teachers and school districts. Chicago’s 2012 teachers’ strike is only the most recent example of bitter standoffs related to teacher evaluation. But confrontation and conflict are not the dominant themes in all districts seeking to reform teacher evaluation. Some districts have successfully used a collaborative approach in developing their new evaluation systems.
“To be successful, evaluation must be an integral part of a teacher’s development and improvement,” said Cynthia G. Brown, Vice President for Education Policy at the Center for American Progress. “High-quality evaluation that is fair, useful, and actionable is in the interest of all stakeholders. As this report clearly illustrates, it is critically important that teachers are vested in the process of designing these evaluation systems.”
The first report released today, entitled “Reforming Teacher Evaluation: One District’s Story,” presents an in-depth case study of an anonymous urban, northeastern school district’s efforts to develop and implement a new teacher evaluation system in a cooperative manner with its teachers. A leader in teacher evaluation reform, the school district has been recognized at state and national levels for the collaboration that has characterized the development and implementation of its new evaluation program and for the use of student achievement in the evaluation system. The effort has garnered support from key stakeholders: teachers, school and district leaders, the teachers union, and the city school board.
Based on their interviews with key district and union leaders and with a cross-section of teachers and school leaders, the report’s authors, Morgaen L. Donaldson and John P. Papay, made the following observations:
- Economic, political, and policy factors have facilitated the teacher evaluation program’s development and acceptance.
- Collaboration has been at the heart of the teacher evaluation program’s creation and development.
- The teacher evaluation program represents both a process and a product.
- The teacher evaluation program’s progress reflects strong leadership coupled with broad input.
“What really stands out about this district’s teacher evaluation program compared to those in other settings is its collaborative nature,” said Morgaen L. Donaldson, co-author of the report. “Our research suggests that the fact that leaders from the teachers union and the district worked together to develop and implement the program has made it more robust.”
To date this district’s teacher evaluation program has led to consequences, with some teachers being recognized as exemplary and others leaving the district for performance reasons. While the program’s direct impact on teacher instruction or student achievement has not yet been examined, stakeholders’ favorable views of the program suggest that the reform may be gaining the traction in the district that would allow it to affect these key outcomes. Based on this district’s experience with teacher evaluation reform, the authors outline the following recommendations for other school districts:
- Get out in front of a wave of reform. As an early implementer of teacher evaluation reform, school districts are able to set their own course for change and design reforms to respond to their unique needs. To some extent, this also allows them to influence state policy rather than be confined by it.
- Invest in collaboration, but know its challenges. Investing in collaboration can lead to a better outcome for all. Collaboration is hard earned and dependent on context and people. Both management and labor leaders should take stock of these factors when seeking to engage in collaborative reform.
- Pay attention to process and product. The teacher evaluation program’s progress to date is as much due to the process through which it was developed as it is to the structural elements that comprise the reform.
A companion report also released today provides rare insight into teachers’ reactions to the new evaluation program in the case study district and the resulting influence on their instructional practices. Entitled “Teachers’ Perspectives on Evaluation Reform,” the report is based on nearly 100 interviews with educators and focuses on how the experiences and views of teachers differed according to their evaluation rating. In general the teachers in the study viewed the district’s new teacher evaluation program more positively than negatively, although a substantial minority of teachers said that they would not recommend the evaluation program to other school districts, citing concerns ranging from fairness to feedback. The paper details a number of key findings and concludes with specific recommendations for policymakers.
Read the reports:
- Reforming Teacher Evaluation: One District’s Story by Morgaen L. Donaldson and John P. Papay
- Teachers’ Perspectives on Evaluation Reform by Morgaen L. Donaldson
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