Evaluating Teacher Eval

Teacher evaluation is one of those hot topics in K-12 education right now.  How do we evaluate educators?  Should test scores count?  If so, for how much?  How does observation fit?  What non-academic, qualitative measures should be part of the process?

And while we often talk about what this district or this state is doing or contemplating doing, we rarely take a holistic look at what some of the true trailblazers in evaluation are doing — what they have in common, what they are doing differently, where they are excelling, and, yes, where they are struggling.
But today, there is a new report out — Measuring Teacher Effectiveness: A Look “Under the Hood” of Teacher Evaluation — that provides such an examination.  Written by the good folks over at Public Impact and jointly commissioned by ConnCAN (where I serve as CEO) and 50CAN, Measuring Teacher Effectiveness provides that picture so many of us have been looking for.
The 10 sites include three states — Delaware, Rhode Island, and Tennessee — five large urban districts — Hillsborough County, FL; Houston, TX; New Haven, CT; Pittsburgh, PA; and Washington, DC — the Achievement First Charter Network, and the Relay Graduate School of Education.
The report provides a cross-site analysis of all 10 sites, as well as 10 detailed profiles of the teacher evaluation systems in each of the featured sites.  It pays specific attention implementation challenges faced in five areas: 1) student achievement measures; 2) classroom observations; 3) other non-academic measures; 4) accuracy, validity, and reliability; and 5) reporting and using evaluation results.
As I said in releasing the report this AM:
There are few factors as important to student success than that of an effective educator.  To ensure that every child has that effective educator, we must implement comprehensive evaluation models.  Measuring Teacher Effectiveness is an important tool in understanding what teacher evaluation leaders are doing and what components must be factored into a meaningful evaluation model.

There is no magic bullet when it comes to effective educator evaluation.  But there is also no need to reinvent the wheel.  By taking a close look at many of our evaluation trailblazers, we can see the necessary components for evaluation, the challenges our states and districts face in doing it right, and the unanswered questions we must still pursue if we are to provide all students with exemplary teachers.
Happy reading!

“They’d Rather FIght Everything …”

“I think that was the great tragedy of [the No Child Left Behind Act], the complete lack of real input the education establishment had, and it goes a long way to explaining the problems with the law.  That tragedy continues today with teacher evaluations. But the fact that they didn’t have a seat at the table was because they’d decided they’d rather fight everything than compromise.”
– Patrick J. McGuinn, associate professor of political science at Drew University, in Education Week’s Relationship Between Advocacy Groups, Unions Uneasy, by Stephen Sawchuk 

Just the Facts

Many Generation Xers may remember the cartoon G.I. Joe remaining us every week that “knowing is half the battle.”  And with all of the facts and figures thrown around during education reform discussions, knowing the statistics is definitely a non-negotiable.

In recent months, Eduflack has been writing a lot about the reform efforts in Connecticut.  This week, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) released its Field Guide to Education in Connecticut 2012.  This document, available in both hard and soft copy, provides educators and advocates, policymakers and parents with a one-stop shop when it comes to education statistics in the Nutmeg State.
From stats on who attends Connecticut’s public schools to achievement gaps, spending to test scores, the Field Guide has it all.  And it serves as a primer for those who are looking to understand the state of public education in a state like Connecticut.
Happy reading!
(Full disclosure: Eduflack is not only affiliated with ConnCAN, but he heads the org.)

“Meaningful Education Reforms” in CT

“I commend Connecticut for coming together to enact meaningful education reforms that will benefit students. I know the negotiations on S.B. 458 were difficult, but Governor Malloy and the Legislature, business, unions, educators, and advocates were committed to begin fixing what is broken in public schools. The final bill includes important reforms in early reading, school turnarounds, school choice, and school staffing and delivers more resources targeted to those districts and schools with the greatest need. Now that Governor Malloy has enacted the law, Connecticut can begin the hard work of putting these important reforms to work in the classroom.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a May 15, 2012 statement

Migrating from AYP

Virtually every state in the union is working to get out from under No Child Left Behind and its measure of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).  Thanks to the U.S. Department’s efforts to offer “NCLB waivers” most states have submitted applications to do just that, veer away from the AYP standard established a decade ago and chart a new path that still demonstrates forward progress.

Over at Education Week, Andrew Ujifusa has a piece outlining the plans many states are crafting for their post-NCLB existences.  From letter grades to stars, many states are looking for new ways to demonstrate progress to both policymakers and parents, in a way that put there districts and schools in the best light possible.
Take, for instance, the plan offered up by Ohio.  According to Education Week, Ohio’s plan is as follows:

  • A-F letter-grading system, based on 4 points. A school with 3.67 points or more earns an A, and a school getting 0.67 points or below earns an F.
  • A school cannot earn an A on the “achievement and graduation gap” portion of its score if one of four groups (all students, white non-Hispanic students, disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities) earns a C, D, or F.
  • Based on 2011 data, under the new A-F system, 24.8 percent of 3,103 traditional public schools (charters not included) would have earned A’s, 33.2 percent would have earned B’s, and 23.9 percent would have earned C’s.

Will it work?  Most states will likely win their NCLB waiver requests, thus giving these states and others the ability to enact their versions of AYP 2.0.  But how many years will it take before we know if this latest version of accountability works or not?

Real Reform in the CT

For many, the notion of meaningful education reform in a blue state with strong teachers unions and a general resistance to change is a thing of folly.  In a state known as “The Land of Steady Habits,” can reform really take hold?

After watching the past few months up in Connecticut, the answer is a resounding yes.  Governor Dannel Malloy has demonstrated the sort of leadership we all seek from our officials, standing strong, fighting for what he believes in, and never wavering from his promise of doing right by the kids and families of Connecticut.
Malloy’s efforts, coupled with the hard work and fire demonstrated by Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, legislative leadership, teachers, principals, superintendents, school boards, the business community, parents, and the community at large, have now resulted into a significant step forward for school improvement in Connecticut.
Rather than biting off a small piece now and saving more reforms for later, Malloy et al went at the heart of the issue.  The path wasn’t easy, most suggested it was too difficult to complete, but when the dust settles on Connecticut’s 2012 legislative session, the state will have adopted a comprehensive reform package with the power to have real impact and help provide all students access to great public schools.
Dear ol’ Eduflack goes into greater detail on the landmark deal for Connecticut over at 50CAN’s Great Big Blog, but the highlights of the legislation that passed the Connecticut Senate by a vote of 28-7 and the House by a unanimous 149-0 decision include:

    • A new educator evaluation system, to be piloted in 10 districts this year, that makes student learning outcomes the most important element of teacher and principal evaluation
    • That teacher tenure be earned based on effectiveness
    • A streamlined dismissal process for chronically ineffective teachers
    • A Commissioner’s Network for the state’s lowest-performing schools, providing the leadership, structure, funding, flexibility, and accountability to bring real change to those buildings and students who need it most
    • An evidence-based approach to teaching children to read, providing the instruction, measurement, and accountability to get all kids reading at grade level by fourth grade
    • Conditional funding for the state’s lowest-performing school districts, offering additional dollars for the implementation of real reforms
    • A Common Chart of Accounts so, once and for all, all Connecticut public schools account for their spending in a consistent, transparent way
    • Closer to real equity for Connecticut’s charter school students, providing the largest increase in per-pupil expenditure for charter schools in the state’s history
    • Additional state-authorized charter schools, including those that serve ELL populations, and providing financial incentives to create locally authorized charters

The significance of these ideas, all part of one comprehensive education reform package, cannot be overstated.  While some may want to play down the importance of these efforts or claim that they turned back fictitious reforms never in the bill, these are real gains worthy of real reflection.
Governor Malloy declared 2012 “The Year for Education Reform” in Connecticut.  Malloy and legislative leadership are to be credited for delivering on legislation that shakes Connecticut’s public schools out of the status quo muck and puts them on the path to 21st century excellence.  
Now the hard work begins.  Just because this is the year for education reform does not mean it is the only year for reform.  Now CT must enact these efforts with fidelity.  Now CT must begin to build on these reforms and identify additional changes necessary to improve instruction and learning in all public schools.  And now CT must deliver on its promise to do right by its kids, all of its kids.
As Leo McGarry once said on West Wing, “We play the full nine innings at this level.”  Nothing could be truer for education reform in Connecticut.  The Nutmeg State is now in the game.  It has taken its first cuts from the batter’s box.  But we have many more innings to go before the win.  But this is a helluva way to approach those early innings.

Speaking for Students

There is little question that efforts to improve our public schools generate significantly heated rhetoric and emotions on all sides.  But when the shouting dies down, does anyone really want to hear a student ask, “who will speak for me?”

That’s the level we’ve reached in the ed reform fight in Connecticut, where the past few months have focused on the adults in the room and what is owed them.  But at some point, we need to ask who will stand up and advocate for the children in the room?
Over in the Connecticut Mirror, Eduflack has a commentary addressing that very question:
For months now, folks have spoken loudly in support of the adults in the room. We have spent week after week, hour after hour, discussing property rights, dismissal procedures and windows for contract negotiations. We’ve seen hundreds of teachers dance at a rally as our schools and students suffer, and as legislators tell those teachers they won’t have to agree to any uncomfortable changes that might benefit students. Yet we know 130,000 students remain trapped in failing schools, 9,000 won’t graduate this year, and thousands more will “graduate” but will be completely unprepared for the challenges of work and life in 2012 and beyond.

Should Teacher Eval Mean Something?

In the fight to close the achievement gap and ensure all kids have access to great public schools, what is the role of the teachers’ union?  I’m not talking teachers, we know how essential great teachers are to learning and achievement.  But when we talk about reform, shouldn’t the unions be part of the solution, rather than an obstacle protecting the problem?

Dear ol’ Eduflack addresses this issue in this morning’s New York Post, reflecting on school improvement efforts in Connecticut, the unions’ initial rhetoric that they were supportive of reforms, and how they have now balked at the process of real accountability and improvement.
From my piece:

The CEA claimed that linking evaluations and staffing decisions was “beyond [its] wildest nightmare”; it’s mounting a full-fledged campaign against any attempt to establish the link. It’s convinced some teachers to fear any linkage — so teachers have been shouting down the governor at town-hall meetings and even calling him a liar when he tried to correct the misconceptions.

What of the AFT? The national union, led by former New York City teacher-union chief Randi Weingarten, has been a key player in the development and early implementation of similar evaluation systems in states and cities across the country. The Connecticut chapter will be at odds with its national affiliate if it blocks key reforms — yet Weingarten’s silence has been deafening so far.

Happy reading!