Posts Tagged ‘teacher evaluation’

Teacher Evaluation-It’s Happening Cross Country!

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Hidden among the news on Super Storm Sandy and the election are education newswriter’s stories about states across the nation that have developed and are implementing public school teacher-administrator evaluation models.

Good news! After years of indifference about student progress, in 2-3 years a different way of evaluation has suddenly developed. New practice has been called for by the current federal administration. And so, state legislatures have written bills that authorize a new model. Colorado and Massachusetts are examples in the news.

Who is involved? If you look at the articles, good models have asked teachers and teachers unions, administrators, boards of education, and the community to add their outlook in order to devise a plan.

The use of student proficiency on yearly standardized tests, once claimed to be the measure that identifies high-quality versus poor-quality teachers, is now only part of Colorado and Massachusetts evaluation systems. The assertion by some education experts that dismissing poor teachers will of itself improve low-performing schools has been put aside.

Furthermore, no school district will use the model until professional development has been realized. The order for support when receiving poor evaluations has been meticulously detailed and approved by teachers.

Overall, the goal is to devise an evaluation model that improves teaching, rewards good procedures, offers leadership, and, above all, increases student success. See The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Some states have jumped to the “merit pay” issue, called an incentive so teachers agree to a new model of evaluation. In Newark, New Jersey, the American Federation of Teachers’ union agreed to the scheme as long as teachers had say in the development and implementation of the new evaluation model being devised in New Jersey. It will take a long while before teachers can see the value of teaching for money. After all schools are not run like hedge funds. Change in salary plans are a difficult issue to bring up in a poor state budget economy.

This blog asserts that teacher evaluation must be revised first. Salary change debates come next.

However, teachers should realize that the current administration has put education on a front burner and wants to improve the lowest performing schools. Evaluation is a tool to ensure that goal.

School and November Elections

Monday, October 8th, 2012

School critics come in two groups.

a desert high school awaits November elections

a desert high school awaits November elections

The first think teachers’ unions are anathema to improvement for low-performing schools and only for-profit elementary to high school charters and colleges are the answer.

The second, foundations call attention to states who have received Race to the Top grants or ‘waivers’ and turn in plans that game the outcome to show evidence of turning around poor-performing public schools.

In the 15% of U.S. public schools that carry a heavy burden toward recovery, teachers hear over and over about the “quiet revolution” called by Arne Duncan, the United States Secretary of Education, aimed at quality teacher evaluation as an important goal to improve student success. See Motoko Rich’s “Loopholes Seen at Schools In Obama Get-Tough Policy,” The New York Times, October 5, 2012.

Nonetheless, this is October of an election year. Teachers have other issues on the table. As an example in California, the state in perpetual budget crisis, teachers are gearing up for the election to support the initiative that stops cuts to school district budgets and helps pay down the state’s deficit. Since the measure involves raising tax revenue it has loud advocates and opponents. Everyone knows California schools were once the envy of the nation but without a change will generate more layoffs, inability to renovate dilapidated infrastructure, loss of programs.

Another California initiative is one of the deceptive measures that are written to fool the uninformed voter. While it claims to stop special interest money in politics, especially union funds, the measure exempts ‘super PACs,’ corporate special interests, and very wealthy Americans. Teachers are spending plenty of time educating voters about this deliberately misleading proposition.

On top of election issues on teachers’ minds, gasoline prices have skyrocketed in the last two weeks. Despite explanation of the circumstances in California and the governor’s action for early changeover to ‘winter blend’ from ‘summer blend’ gasoline (all used to minimize pollution on the state’s highways), not only teachers, but parents of students, are paying the price. What kind of disruption is that causing in low-income neighborhoods? A very local problem that plays its part in the difficulties of elevating student success. See San Francisco Chronicle, October 8, 2012.

Local or statewide or national, critical issues take over the attention of teachers at the same time they are called on to improve public education. It’s a political football!

Colorado’s Evaluation-Compensation Pilot Proposal

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

The state of Colorado has embarked on an ambitious principal and teacher evaluation program that may change how teachers are compensated, retained, and dismissed.

Based on Colorado’s SB10-191 law, the Colorado Department of Education is creating evaluation criteria for principals and teachers that school districts will use by 2013.

The first pilot of principal evaluation will occur in 2011-12 in selected school districts.  The major evaluation categories include:

I: Principals demonstrate strategic leadership

II: Principals demonstrate instructional leadership

III: Principals demonstrate school culture and equity leadership

IV: Principals demonstrate human resource leadership

V: Principals demonstrate managerial leadership

VI: Principals demonstrate external development leadership

VII: Principals demonstrate leadership around student growth

A pilot of teacher evaluation will begin in 2012-13.  The major evaluation categories include:

I: Teachers demonstrate knowledge of the content they teach

II: Teachers establish a respectful learning environment for a diverse population of students

III: Teachers facilitate learning for their students

IV: Teachers reflect on their practice

V: Teachers demonstrate leadership

VI: Teachers take responsibility for student growth

The complete program, with evaluation revisions, will roll out in 2013-14.

Annual performance evaluation is a feature of employment in the private sector.  In many instances, compensation relates to the assessment.  A number of school districts, including the state’s largest, Jefferson County Schools, will base compensation on annual evaluation.

Jefferson County School District will use its bargaining relationship with its Associations to put together its evaluation-compensation program.  Due to huge budget cuts, the District engaged in a “Summit” in March, 2011, to find $40 million in cuts.  All Associations came together to identify where fees would rise, staffing trims would take place, and programs would end.  The outcome resulted in a 93 percent approval vote by Associations in support of their contracts, despite an across the board 3 percent salary reduction.

A task force from the Summit will recommend a strategic compensation program that may involve two salary platforms: one for current teachers and one for new teachers.

The new teacher program is likely to remove traditional annual step raises and level lifts.  Tuition assistance will replace levels and compensation based on performance will replace steps.

The new compensation system will create a capacity to increase income based on overall performance and incentives based on specific achievement targets or goals.  As an example, steps based on years may be replaced by steps based on “two consecutive years of meeting performance expectations.”  Incentive pay may occur for achieving specific targets, such as “all students score proficient or above on 3rd grade math assessment.”

Much of this work requires refinement and experimentation.  Currently the District is implementing a $37 million Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant to determine whether incentive pay can substantially improve student academic performance in Title 1 schools.  Results of this study will affect the design of the District’s compensation and evaluation program.

Districts are beginning to incorporate some business practices from the private sector.  What’s unknown at this point is whether private sector practices, even well-tested best practices, will transfer to the public education environment.

Eliminate tenure-Ensure teacher quality

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

In the State of the Union speech earlier this month, President Obama spoke of moving education for the nation’s children up front. The time to exert ourselves is now. We can make improvements that will help the country grow long term.

Great! But the road to student success brings to mind a plethora of factors: tests, budgets, vouchers, evaluation, curriculum, core standards, classroom management, teacher preparation. The list goes on and on.

But wait! A number of state governors are making loud noises about teacher tenure. They are positive that eliminating just this single hundred year old fixture of teacher protection from arbitrary dismissal will solve the problem of low-performing schools.

Every teacher knows the stories of weak colleagues with high salaries and poor classroom management who couldn’t be dismissed without lengthy hearings and attempts to help them improve. And every teacher knows the stories of teachers who were harassed by administrators because they stood up for their rights until they left the profession.

Simply tossing teacher tenure from the state’s education legislation may be the easy thing to do, but would hardly be the solution to teacher quality or achievement for students.

Other measures are being debated.

For instance, Memphis city school system is trying to settle its budget woes by merging the city schools with the suburban schools of Shelby County, Tennessee. Such a merger has set off a conflict of rich and poor, urban vs. suburban needs, shifting costs. Still, those disputes are attempts to improve the achievement of students-the goal of education.

Maybe vouchers are the end all and be all. The Florida legislature has written another bill to make money available for students in failing schools to move to private schools. It could be one way to dismantle low-performing schools, but how to judge whether the particular private school is going to help the new students?

In New York City Schools, Learning Leaders is a volunteer organization that provides tutors and parent education to promote literacy for a school’s low-performing children. The results indicate higher scores on standardized tests, improved attendance, enhanced social skills and behavior. The model is an intense focus on factors to improve achievement for students.

How about three models espoused by organizations to improve teacher quality? William J. Slotnick of Community Assistance and Training Center has helped Denver Public Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in North Carolina. They focus on models where teachers and principals set goals and select measures for yearly student achievement. Teacher evaluation is based on success in completing the goals.

A report on establishing teacher quality, written by Education Resource Strategies in Watertown, Massachusetts, suggests guidelines for schools, districts, and states. All suggestions are based on a bottom up strategy which should ensure teacher and union participation.

Here are the five suggestions: create teams to plan for change; empower the teams; build better steps to recruit highly qualified personnel to carry out the plan; help teachers achieve potential; reward personnel contributions to student achievement.

A third model offered by the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality describes similar steps for improving student achievement and teacher quality. The NCCTQ report specifically takes up the ‘third rail’ of teacher tenure when addressing teacher evaluation issues.

In California all of the problems noted above are hitting the schools: budget woes and merging districts; education experts advocating vouchers; unions offering accountability models for teacher evaluation; models showing ways to improve student achievement in failing schools. It is highly unlikely that the California legislature will cut teacher tenure from the education code. It will, however, be part of a revised teacher evaluation system.

It will be a hard row to hoe. But the ask is to move forward, make change for the good of the country.

What do unions say?

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Are unions bringing the U.S. down? Does unionization mean that jobs will never increase? Whose jobs-private sector, public sector?

Teachers unions, for example, are blamed for everything related to school problems.  They hold onto pay scale systems that are old-fashioned; berate the weaknesses of state tests; defend weak teachers; stand against changes to teacher evaluation; and, especially, defend teacher retirement systems.

Wait a minute. Teachers have formed professional organizations since the mid-eighteen hundreds. In 1959 when Wisconsin passed labor laws that allowed collective bargaining, teachers unions adopted labor union strategies. Negotiations for decent pay, hours, work place safety, as well as curriculum and evaluation became the norm.

With the current budget struggles, it is easy to lump all labor unions into one bundle and scapegoat those institutions for all the money problems of each state. It is true that to keep middle class wages, benefits, and pensions, the unions can use their negotiation muscle, but who would not want to keep what you’ve worked for?

Are you thinking of the Wall Street-hedge fund-private equity manager guys who’ve certainly used muscle to keep tax revenue low and bonuses high? Do the state governors and assemblies come to mind, who budgeted for pensions in good times but are now stingy in bad money times?

Right now, private sector workers are being pitted against public sector workers in unions, in an effort to justify taking away money to balance state budgets. The lawmakers who want to resolve the fiscal crisis on workers backs say that public employees earn far more in average wages than private sector employees. Think, however, about college degrees that teachers must have; only 23% of private-sector workers have those degrees. In most professions, a college degree is worth a higher salary. Overall in fact, public sector wages have dropped relative to private sector pay.  However, since jobs have been lost mainly in the private-sector, due to the recession, it is easy to establish a stand-off.

Teachers unions do need to turn to themselves. National Education Association(NEA) stances on dropout prevention, plans to lower the achievement gap, placing limits on charter schools and vouchers do benefit school communities.

Still, unions are not wearing halos. First and foremost, unions must use their muscle to help schools that are truly failing, instead of finding excuses for longtime poor performance. Insist on changes to student assessments that do not lead to school quality, a big factor for improvement. Next, teacher evaluation must be taken on. Once teachers feel they are being evaluated fairly, then unions can focus on changes in pay-no longer ‘steps and ladders’ and tenure, but a plan to combine performance with pay. Last, teachers unions in some states can be part of a team that bargains for changes to pension systems.

Stop pointing fingers. All workers have the right to bargain for working conditions and decent pay. Setting teachers against social workers against electricians against public defenders against state engineers is not the solution to budget problems.

Stop reproaching unions, claiming that student achievement would improve if only unions were out of the way.

Civility and collaboration generate better outcomes.

(More on the private vs. public sector union issues can be found in the San Francisco Chronicle‘s January 16, 2012, Insight article by Robert Reich. More on teachers unions at the NEA website.)