The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune is still unhappy with the way teachers in Illinois are evaluated because the current system still has too many teachers rated in the top two tiers of the ranking categories.
When Arnie Duncan was Secretary of Education for President Obama he created a grant-based funding program called Race to the Top. To qualify, each state had to submit a plan that had an evaluation system that included a value added measure. VAM is a metric that demonstrates by a tally or a number how much a teacher contributed to an individual students performance in school.
Usually this meant a test score.
Illinois applied for the grant and then-governor Pat Quinn picked Illinois Education Association Executive Director Audrey Soglin to head the committee which wrote the legislation that the legislature passed creating the Peformance Evaluation Reform Act or PERA.
What problem was PERA supposed to solve?
There were just too many teachers who were getting good evaluations from principals who were hired to evaluate them.
Whose fault is that, according to the Tribune?
The teacher unions, of course.
That was fine with the teachers unions because their dues-paying members kept their jobs. But a weak evaluation system had kept poorly performing teachers in front of classrooms, shortchanging students year after year.
Now we have PERA with a strong value added measure component. What is the result? Teachers are still receiving good evaluations.
What the hell?
Student scores are up. So if you believe -unlike me – that this means not much more than a lot of test prep and some number juicing by administrators, it would not be surprising that teacher evaluations would be good since the evaluations are tied to individual student performance measures.
Not according to the Trib. They still want more bad teachers. In the editorial writers own words, they want “a more realistic curve.”
In what other job are employees evaluated on a curve? Meaning if you have some great teachers you must have some on the other end of the measurement curve.
You just must!
I find the entire conversation about teacher performance evaluation so disconnected to what I know from decades of being inside school buildings and being in classrooms and seeing teachers teach.
What do I know?
The other day a teacher told me a story about their district requiring teachers to use and post learning targets. For the last half dozen years or so this has been a thing.
This teacher explained that all the teachers in their building were to post on their bulletin board what they wanted their students to learn that day. That was the teacher’s learning target. Extra points were awarded if they included some decorations. Like an arrow on a target.
Arrow target? Learning target? Get it?
Also to be posted were the students “I can” statement. The idea being that if an administrator was to walk into the room they would immediately know what the teacher was covering that day and if a student was asked, they could repeat the “I can” statement verbatim. No student interpretation was required.
First, let me say that in thirty years of teaching it was a rare day that I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted my students to get from me or discover by the time they left my room. It was also a rare day that those plans weren’t shifted a little and sometimes shifted a lot by the dynamic of what went on in the class. Questions. Accidents. Interruptions. Unplanned occurences which were sometimes miraculous and sometimes disastrous.
I asked the teacher, “Does the posting of learning targets and “I can” statements show up in teacher evaluations?”
“Yes,” she responded.
Which is to say that no Danielson rubric, no system to figure out the teacher’s added value, no “I can” statement posted on a bulletin board will ever tell you what kind of teacher is with our kids.
The Tribune will never be happy because they are mainly looking for all the bad teachers.