REL, Comp Center Host Regional Meeting on Educator Effectiveness
|July 1, 2012|
Boston, MA – On June 28, REL Northeast and Islands and the New England Comprehensive Center co-hosted a Bridge Event at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel and Trade Center in Marlborough, Mass., that included several research presentations and enabled practitioners and state education officials to share some of the lessons they have learned developing and implementing new educator evaluation systems. The event supports the work of REL-NEI’s Northeast Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance (NEERA), which is building a research agenda to support state and district capacity building in educator evaluation.
Across the Northeast, and indeed the whole country, teachers and school administrators are seeing radical changes in how they are evaluated. Gone are the days of minimal, if any, classroom observations, and binary rating scales in which teachers essentially “pass” or “fail” but receive no feedback on how they can improve student learning. In their place are new evaluation systems that pull together multiple measures—student test scores, classroom observations, self-assessments—to determine educators’ strengths and weaknesses, and their impact on students’ performance.
Yet, research on these new systems is nascent, and many questions remain about how, and whether, they will work. NEERA sponsored the Bridge Event—“Measuring Educator Effectiveness: Lessons from Research and Practice”—to enrich local conversations and decisions about educator evaluation. Participants came from all six New England states, New York, and Pennsylvania.
“Effective evaluation relies on clearly defined and communicated standards of performance, quality tools for measuring and differentiating performance, and quality training on those standards and tools,” said keynote speaker Dr. Laura Goe, Principal Investigator for the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, in the opening session.
“If we could tell the states one thing about doing observations, it would be to train the people who are doing them. Teachers need to know that the score they get on an observation is not dependent on who came and observed them. That is the fair way to do it.”
Goe presented research on educator evaluation that shows a well-aligned evaluation system includes high-quality standards of instruction, high-quality opportunities for professional growth, and multiple measures of teacher effectiveness, among other things. She said most teachers crave feedback and that evaluations should be used not just to rate teachers but to help them become better at what they do. Measures of teacher effectiveness include student test scores, classroom observations, review of teacher lesson plans, and even parent and student surveys, but they must be analyzed together, she insisted.
“None of these measures is good enough by itself—we need to triangulate all of our data to get a good solid picture of what that teacher is able to do,” Goe said.
Case Study: New Haven Public Schools
Following Goe’s presentation, administrators from the New Haven Public Schools shared information about their district’s new teacher and administrator evaluation system, which launched two years ago. The system requires teachers to set student learning goals and to meet with an instructional manager three times a year to discuss their performance and development. Evaluation measures include student growth measures, classroom observations, and self-assessment.
Assistant Superintendent Imma Canelli emphasized the importance of district-union collaboration in designing their system. By bringing the teachers union into the evaluation discussion from the beginning, teachers felt respected and had a voice in how they would develop professionally.
“We’re not trying to get rid of teachers, we’re trying to develop teachers along our continuum,” Canelli said. “We also want to highlight the exemplary teachers. We want to share that practice with other teachers.”
After the morning presentations, conference participants broke into small state-based groups, where they voiced concern about the speed with which districts are being asked to implement new evaluation systems, particularly in states that won Race to the Top grants from the U.S. Department Education. Some questioned whether financial support from the federal and state governments was sustainable, and if evaluation results will, in fact, be used to inform future practice.
Other participants, however, expressed optimism that better evaluation could lead to better teaching and student learning. Ashley Frame, a teacher at Nute High School in Milton, N.H., is a member of her state’s Consortium of Educator Effectiveness and helping her school to formulate and pilot a new evaluation system.
“What’s been really exciting about our plan is we’re rolling it into professional development and re-certification,” she said.
NEERA is one of eight new research alliances that REL-NEI is facilitating across the Northeast and Islands Region. The alliances are small groups of regional education practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and others who share a particular education concern and wish to develop a coherent body of research work that can inform policy and practice, said REL-NEI Director Jill Weber.