Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New teacher evaluation system...the devil's in the details

On January 16, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray organized a full-day hearing on the state of human capital development in DCPS. National experts and eloquent DCPS teachers testified for 11 hours before the full Council. Councilmembers heard different perspectives, but a powerful critique emerged of a lack of support for high quality teaching in the school system, and a teacher work force largely on their own under very difficult conditions. We offer here, and to the right, snapshots from some who testified before the council because it was a day of tremendous insight about what to do and what not to do in the system’s reform effort.

National author and researcher, Thomas Toch, who has studied the strengths and weaknesses of evaluation systems across the country, warned of the dangers of tying teacher evaluation to student test scores. Jason Kamras, who is developing the new evaluation plan for DCPS, should take heed. Rather,

“Evaluations should be based on clear, comprehensive standards of strong teaching practice that have emerged in recent years. And they should encompass multiple observations by multiple evaluators, with a substantial role going to teams of trained school system evaluators free of the inclinations to favoritism and conflicts of interest that have plagued evaluations by principals-and that led to the rise of credential- and seniority-based pay scales in public education 80 years ago.”
“… Most school systems waste millions of dollars on random workshops rather that focusing on improving teachers' specific strengths and weaknesses, because they evaluate teachers so superficially that it's nearly impossible to learn what teachers are good at and what they need to improve.”
“...Comprehensive evaluation systems signal to teachers that they are professionals doing important work, and in so doing help make public school teaching more attractive to the sort of talent that the occupation has struggled to recruit and retain.”
For the full testimony see the link to the right.


lodesterre said...

I ask anyone to read the programs cited by Margot Berkey (so far the only testimony I have read)and especially the article by Linda Darling-Hammond entitled How They Do It Abroad. Here we have multiple examples of how to support teachers, build a system that will keep experienced teachers within the system, and move students to think critically, not just score high on a bubble test.

Ame in DC said...

Really unbelievable work on everyone's part. This is the third and most important link to the blog I've sent to everyone on my LARGE staff...maybe they'll start paying some attention, because the DATA shows clearly what TPRER's position is. And it gives me hope because you all know -- I'm a little beaten down.

lodesterre said...

Hey Ame,

I don't know you other than in the posts here but I'd just like to offer some encouragement. I think a lot of good teachers are feeling beaten down. No contract for two years, a feckless union, and an atmosphere of fear in our schools is enough to make anyone feel down. But I do have faith that with people such as TPRER, and others in our schools who care - even those we might disagree with but who obviously care - we will find a way past what seems a very dark period. I really have to believe that eventually compromise, collaboration and compassion will find their way into the process. At some point the obstinacy that has characterized so much of the process, on both sides, must give way to reason. We have a President who believes in dialogue and he hired a Secretary of Education who at least seems to understand the need for the qualities mentioned above. Let us hope that the more reasonable minds will prevail.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lodesterre - I like to be optimistic too. I don't expect Rhee and Fenty to suddenly, or even ever, become reasonable and compassionate in the Obama-Duncan model, but I do expect that Rhee-Fenty tactics will have to adapt somewhat to survive. The contrast is too great to go unnoticed -- and Fenty has to get re-elected.

meaningful change said...

Thomas Toch’s point about school systems wasting “millions of dollars on random workshops…” captures DCPS’ professional development so well. It is one more thing that is thrown together and is not well thought out. But DCPS can claim that it has provided X many of hours in professional development to teachers. Looks great on paper right? Outward appearance rather than substance is what it is all about these days.

Ame in DC said...

Thanks, Lodesterre.

lodesterre said...

I wanted to email someone here but there is no contact information. I was wondering what you made of the recent news that 2 KIPP schools in NYC are unionizing and also one of Los Angeles' most celebrate charter schools is also unionizing. Oddly enough both articles mention the same reasons for the teachers wanting a union: "teacher turnover, inconsistent treatment of employees and a perceived deterioration of teacher involvement" http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/02/teachers-union.html

Here is the NY Times article on the KIPPS:


You folks have been quiet.