MEASURING TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS

IMPROVING TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEMS

04/11/2014  |  By Dr. Sandra K Darling and Dr. Timothy R. Vansickle
COMMON CORE
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As never before, teacher preparedness and teacher evaluation are being closely aligned to student achievement. With the release of NCLB Waivers by the Executive Branch, through the U.S. Department of Education teachers must be evaluated using student test scores. The waiver removes the requirement that all students must be proficient in reading and mathematics in the spring of 2014 as required under the law (NCLB, 2001). 

"Teachers and administrators have spent a great deal of time in refining the teacher evaluation process, including what data is collected, how it is disseminated, stored, and accessed."

At least part of every teacher’s evaluation is to be based on student scores on the summative tests given, typically at the end of each school year. There are a host of issues that surround the use of test scores for teacher evaluation such as: not all subjects or content areas are tested; in some cases the content being tested may be taught in more than one class by more than one teacher; or the content is taught by a subject matter teacher not associated with the tested content (e.g., math taught and learned in the science class). In the space allotted we cannot cover all the possible issues and challenges, instead we propose that other factors, directly under the control of the teacher and that are measurable may be a better avenue to assessing teacher effectiveness. These include: (1) a deep understanding of the content knowledge of the Common Core Standards – the expectations for student learning, (2) effective instruction that is aligned to the Common Core Standards – content pedagogy, and (3) the professional teaching standards that apply to all content and instruction, commonly referred to as the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium Standards (InTASC, Council of Chief State School Officers, April 2011).

Why Teacher Effectiveness?
The primary goal of any educational endeavor is to impact the learning of the student. In other words, good and effective teachers should improve student learning. There is no more powerful factor in student achievement than having an “effective teacher” in every classroom. The question arises: what does a good and effective teacher look like? In addition we might ask, does a good and effective teacher only impact the student’s achievement in the taught subject matter? However, ultimately teaching should have a positive impact on student learning. There is a positive relationship between effective teaching and student learning. There is a consensus in the education community that the definition of an effective teacher is one who can increase student achievement (Harris & Rutledge, 2009; (Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, 2008; Rivkin, Hanushek & Kain, 1999, 2005).

Improving Teacher Evaluation Systems
Districts and states have overhauled teacher evaluation systems in response to federal mandates required to receive NCLB Waivers and Race to the Top funds. Ten states have their upgraded teacher evaluation systems approved as meeting the requirement to tie teacher evaluation to student performance in an attempt to improve student achievement. Changes vary from state to state. Most states have adopted “multiple measures” for their teacher evaluation systems in efforts to improve teacher performance. The various measures are “weighted” with each measure affecting a certain percentage of the teacher’s evaluation. The multiple measures include factors such as: principal observations of practice, student surveys on teacher performance, parent surveys, participation in school related initiatives, participation in professional development related to teaching assignments, value-add scores, peer observations, leadership responsibilities, analysis of student work samples, videos of teaching, lesson plan review, and portfolios. Districts and states have provided new protocols for principal observations and training for teacher leaders in the use and processing of the observational data. Pre- and post-conference meetings have been upgraded to allow teachers to receive explicit feedback, analyze the data together, and to reflect on their professional practice. Areas of strength are noted and celebrated; areas in need of improvement are noted and often professional development is recommended or assigned to improve teacher performance.

Teachers and administrators have spent a great deal of time in refining the teacher evaluation process, including what data is collected, how it is disseminated, stored, and accessed. Complex data systems have been added by districts to keep track of teacher performance data, often, including professional development of teachers. The focus of all of the changes has been to improve the effectiveness of teachers and teaching for the purpose of significantly improving student learning of America’s students.

Results – WHOOPS!!
Results of existing teacher evaluation systems have failed to discriminate among teachers, with almost all teachers being rated as performing to standards or better. At the same time, the results of student achievement tests show little or no growth. Stephen Sawchek in Education Week (2/6/13) reports that the figures are resoundingly familiar.

“In Michigan, 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or better under new teacher-evaluation systems recently put in place. In Florida, 97 percent of teachers were deemed effective or better. Principals in Tennessee judged 98 percent of teachers to be “at expectations” or better last school year, while evaluators in Georgia gave good reviews to 94 percent of teachers.”

The newly released PISA 2012 data on 15-year-olds show:
“Eighteen education systems had higher average scores than the United States in all three subjects. The 18 education systems are: Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong-China, Ireland, Japan, Liechtenstein, Macao-China, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Republic of Korea, Shanghai-China, Singapore, and Switzerland. The U.S. states Massachusetts and Connecticut also had higher average scores than the United States in math, science and reading literacy.

U.S. Performance Over Time
The U.S. average mathematics, science, and reading literacy scores in 2012 were not measurably different from average scores in previous PISA assessment years with which comparisons can be made (2003, 2006, and 2009 for mathematics; 2006 and 2009 for science; and 2000, 2003, and 2009 for reading).”

National Center for Educational Statistics NCES 2014-024
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION December, 2013

Flat student achievement data in state after state, as well as measures of student achievement internationally, substantiate the lack of correlation between student outcomes and the newly adopted teacher evaluation systems.

The ultimate purpose of teacher evaluation systems is to help improve teacher effectiveness. This should logically lead to improve student achievement. Unfortunately, the intended result of improving student achievement did not occur. The multiple measures of data collected, the procedures in place to process that data, the time and energy that conscientious teachers and administrators put forth, the professional development that was assigned to correct documented areas of weakness - all that were to be linked to, connect to, or correlated with student achievement appears to have missed the mark! What happened?

The Missing Link
First of all, we do not believe the efforts of districts and states were in total error! There are positive changes occurring. There is a greater focus on analyzing student work and data, efforts to keep students in school until graduation are beginning to pay off, schools are attending to bullying and creating safer environments in which students can learn, the kinds and uses of technology for teaching and learning are evolving, and programs are emerging to make learning more relevant, engaging, and meaningful for students. The conversation about teaching has expanded in the last decade. So what is missing?

We propose that other factors, directly under the control of the teacher and that are measurable, may be a better avenue to assessing teacher effectiveness. These include: (1) a deep understanding of the Content Knowledge of the Common Core Standards – the expectations for student learning, (2) effective instruction that is aligned to the Common Core Standards – Content Pedagogy, and (3) the professional teaching standards that apply to all content and instruction, commonly referred to as the InTASC Standards – Professional Knowledge. They are measureable and all within the teacher’s control.

Most of the teacher evaluation systems today are similar in nature and are evolutions of previous systems that have grown to accommodate new requirement and policies. They are not necessarily bad or poorly implemented but do appear to be lacking in helping teachers improve student learning. Multiple measures are certainly needed and adding measures of the three areas listed above can only help teachers become more effective and have a positive impact on student learning.

 
Dr. Sandra K Darling is President and CEO, of Learning Bridges. Dr. Timothy R. Vansickle is Consultant/Founder, of Advanced Assessment Systems.
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