09 Oct Teacher Evaluation Reform Belongs to All of Us
Having read an article from Education Week (Race to Top Winners Feel Heat on Teacher Evaluations), I am left with an anticipation for the reform process being used to serve students in the best way possible. Race to the Top Grants serve as a financial opportunity for states, districts, and schools to pay for their reform efforts; but more than that, these grants provided an impetus for strategic planning and implementation. Unfortunately, it seems as though the sense of urgency that is brought on by deadlines, is creating rushed products. Fortunately, it appears as though the government recognizes this and is offering extensions to these deadlines, as appropriate.
I work in one of the Race to the Top recipient states, Delaware, and I have been lucky enough to be involved with many aspects of Race to the Top implementation. Delaware is a small state and if an educator has the desire, he or she can be readily involved in state reform. I know that is not the case in all states; so I recognize that I am fortunate.
Delaware is also one of the states that has applied for and been granted an extension to complete Race to the Top implementation efforts as we examine the current measurement procedures, primarily for the non-tested subjects, but also for core subject areas. We will be evaluating current assessments and developing assessments that will serve to provide additional data about student growth.
What does this mean for teachers?
Delaware is not the only state working on revising and refining how teachers are evaluated. In the Education Week article, New York, Rhode Island, Georgia, Hawaii, and Colorado are mentioned. Many more states are applying for Race to the Top funds or are revisiting their teacher evaluation systems. Some of this work is being done within districts and some work is completed at the state level with district support.
As a teacher, raise your voice to be heard. Be aware of opportunities to inform your district and state about the best ways to measure your effectiveness. Have a say in the process. This could be through contacting district officials or state employees who are developing policies that will shape the manner in which you are evaluated.
What does this mean for policymakers and administrators?
In a simple fashion, include your teachers. Let them inform your decision-making. If they do not approach you, then reach out to them through town hall meetings, email, online surveys, conference calls, etc. Reach out through more than one channel. As we develop systems to effectively evaluate educators, we have to be aware of all of the stakeholders in the situation. This means that teacher engagement is key. In fact, according to the article, points were awarded when teachers and their unions backed Race to the Top proposals.
Other ideas for how states are developing their evaluation systems can be found in Fact Sheets from the government describing methods explored in Race to the Top applications.
The next steps belong to us all. As we cling to our traditions in education, it is difficult to see the path ahead that contains change. We can all recognize that our world has changed in many ways over the decades. What is important now is that we work together to embrace the change and create living documents that continually adjust. These documents can reflect the best thinking of the time, but can be flexible as understandings grow. When talking about teacher evaluation, teachers must be heard but teachers must also speak. We each have a responsibility to make our educational systems the best that they can be.