Archive for the ‘Peer Assistance and Review’ Category

ESEA Revision! Teacher Evaluation?

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Good news! The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has finally released its draft of a bill filled with revisions to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2002. The House Education Committee version, as stated in a previous post, is being negotiated piecemeal in hopes there will be no revision until after 2012.

The Senate legislation may pass, not only because Congress has been chastised for taking 4-5 years to make revisions. The bill takes into account the propositions made by the Obama Administration in 2009, the NCLB waivers by “executive authority” authorized by the U.S. Department of Education in September 2011, and it closely aligns with GOP proposals. Bipartisan legislation!

The main aspects to look over closely are standards, school improvement, and accountability.

preparing students to be college or career ready

preparing students to be college or career ready

We’ve heard for a long time that standards for student achievement must assure college or career readiness. But each state’s standards do not have to be aligned with the Common Core Standards, although all but six states have agreed to those standards. Also, English language Learners must have a set of standards which assure readiness to graduate.

As for accountability, the major change is that there are no longer hard and fast targets for achievement in reading and math. The states are accountable for “continuous growth.” Who keeps tabs on the growth for each state?

With growth in mind, school improvement for schools in each state must include intensive intervention for the 5% lowest-performing schools. Schools with the largest achievement gap between aggregates of the student population must implement practices to reduce the gap. Again, what entity will oversee these changes?

Critics point out that in the revisions the state determines the method for measuring the impact of programs. In the old NCLB that was the problem! The language was too vague to assure high standards for the measures used to assess student achievement. Without clear achievement targets, poor and minority students will be ignored.

The Senate draft and the House attempt does address the teacher accountability controversy, but leaves much up to the state. Each state must have four ratings for teachers and student achievement must be a factor. But, for example, how is student achievement and teacher evaluation to be made for subjects and grades not tested?

It appears that states and school districts are left to design and implement a plan. New reports to share best practices for teacher evaluation appear monthly. One of the latest is a report Peer Review: Getting Serious About Teacher Support and Evaluation by Julia E. Koppich and Daniel Humphrey. The report describes two exemplary Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) programs in California:  Poway School District near San Diego and San Juan School District near Sacramento.

Briefly, the program is geared to new teachers and experienced teachers who need to improve their instruction and classroom management. Consulting teachers take a year away from the classroom and provide well-designed accountability plans and intensive support to improve teaching. A governance board made up of administration and the teacher’s union has proven to work well to support the program, in spite of tough decisions about employment. It was apparent to the report writers that increased pressure to do better with less money was the critical factor, given that trained consulting teachers provide the most important role in the success of the program.

Back again to the same concern repeated many times. Where’s the money? This school year 37 states have cut funding for education. The American Jobs Act did not pass in the Senate as this post is being written. Since the Senate Education Committee seems to be doing some bipartisan work, maybe they will be the instigators of some spending on teachers. And police and the men and women who put out fires– before Congress lets the schools burn.