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Teacher Effectiveness & Student Achievement
Teacher Effectiveness and Student Achievement
The Chicago teachers’ strike has drawn a lot of attention to the teacher evaluation process. It is a local decision for the Chicago Public Schools, but the changes being discussed have similarity to changes already made in Wisconsin.
There is also confusion over what the issues really are. I would caution people against drawing conclusions in general about teaching or schools based upon what is happening in Chicago or what you hear in the media.
When I began my teaching career, it was not uncommon to see things like “great use of a film projector” on a teacher evaluation. My colleague was reprimanded in an evaluation report for wearing open-toed shoes! The evaluations were largely based upon whether the protocols for a good lesson design were followed and the teacher was professional. If the students behaved well, the lesson was delivered in an appropriate time frame, and all of the equipment worked well, the teacher probably had a fair to good rating.
Regardless of the era, a great teacher still needs that dynamic and meaningful connection with students. Great teachers, then and now, value the feedback from a meaningful and fair evaluation process.
I am very confident that good teachers expect part of their evaluation and feedback to be based upon whether they are effective. No one wants ineffective pedagogy to be ignored. Student achievement is part of the data that demonstrates effectiveness.
As a principal, I participated in many situations in which Menomonie’s finest teachers brought in their student data and displayed it with pride. They were always very excited to share the results of their labor.
I was sitting at my desk during one of those instances. A talented veteran teacher quietly entered and sat at my table. She wanted to “show me something.” With tears in her eyes she displayed the work of three students who had been struggling all year long to reach their reading benchmarks.
One child had moved more times than either of us could count, another student was growing up in a family in deplorable circumstances, and the third was painfully shy and withdrawn. All three had finally attained the year-end goal. It was/is this teacher’s mission every year to have 100% of her students reach benchmarks.
She is not alone. Every great teacher wants the same thing. It is what drives the educational process. I would argue that teachers are not afraid to include their effectiveness in their evaluations— they simply want to be sure it is done right.
Wisconsin recently said goodbye to “No Child Left Behind.” The 2001 federal legislation controversially made schools obsessively focused on isolated student test scores in reading and mathematics. Being freed from this act came with some required changes. One of the changes requires states to develop measures that tie student achievement to teacher evaluation.
What the waiver does not require is merit pay. The waiver still leaves compensation systems in the hands of the local school district. Our district is in the process of developing a new compensation system. It will be collaborative work with our staff.
The evaluation system that we use requires veteran teachers to be formally evaluated, minimally, every three years. New teachers are evaluated annually. When done well, an evaluation cycle will include one or more formal observations, several walk-through observations, and many opportunities for the teacher and the supervisor to interact.
The new Wisconsin teacher effectiveness project will require school districts to look at the results of the observation process along side student assessment data, progress toward achievement goals, and overall building and district achievement. The results will all be a part of analyzing how teachers and schools are performing.
A highly effective teacher within a highly effective school is the most critical factor in the achievement of a student. Our teachers will tell you the same and welcome the opportunity to make that our reality in every classroom.
Teachers are being held accountable for the academic requirements of the new waiver. Twenty-six states have raised the achievement bar with the new common core standards and definition of “proficient.”
Under the new assessment system, proficient is defined as “understanding of challenging subject matter and solving a wide variety of problems and comprehensive, in-depth knowledge of rigorous subject matter.” That is a significantly different bar than the old language of "in-depth understanding" for advanced and "competency" in proficient.
The total number of student proficient will no longer be the primary “score” used to determine effectiveness. The new assessment system considers “value-added growth” in each student. Teachers will be able to look at assessment results and determine if students have made significant gains from the previous year or previous assessment.
Leaving No Child Left Behind…behind does not mean leaving children behind. However, it does invite change.
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