Developing Measures of Student Growth for Teacher Evaluation

Developing Measures of Student Growth for Teacher Evaluation

As one of the first Race to the Top winners, my state of Delaware is undergoing some major changes specifically as it relates to teacher evaluation. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to directly participate in this work.

To provide some background, our state-wide teacher evaluation is called the Delaware Performance Appraisal System (DPAS). Each year the DPAS is revised, but the newest revisions around the student improvement component seem to be gaining the most attention.

This component, which is one of five components that will be used to evaluate teachers, will be pivotal in a teacher’s rating. Despite positive ratings in Components I-IV, a teacher can be rated “needs improvement” or “ineffective” in Delaware if their students fail to demonstrate adequate growth in Component V.

Component V is comprised of three parts:

  • Part 1. Determined by school-wide achievement in either Reading or Math on the state assessment, Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS). Only students in 3rd through 10thgrade take this assessment. At present this means, K-2 teachers will receive their entire Component V score based upon the performance of the 3-5th grade students at their school. Likewise, teachers in the 11th and 12th grades will receive their entire Component V scores based upon the performance of the 9th and 10th grade students.
  • Part 2. Teachers select a cohort of approximately 25 students for which the teacher would be responsible for their students’ achievement on the Instructional Score derived from the DCAS assessment. There are two scores generated by the DCAS assessment. One of the scores is used for accountability ratings, or Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), and the other is used for instructional purposes.The selection of the cohort is fairly straightforward for classroom teachers because they choose their classroom of students. It is a bit more difficult for a music teacher who teaches all 450 students in an elementary school. It presents a further challenge for a Guidance Counselor who may see groups whose members change often. There are people who teach students, but teach subjects other than Reading or Math. Nurses are similarly evaluated with this system. In addition, there are some Instructional Coaches who do not even teach students, but provide professional development to ensure that teachers have access to training and materials based on educational best-practices and scientific research.
  • Part 3. Consists of alternate assessments used to evaluate student growth. Some External Measures, meaning commercial assessments, have been approved by the State of Delaware to be used in this Part. Teachers and other educators are working to develop Internal Measures for use in this Part. Internal Measures are assessments that are developed by teachers and educators in the field, in order to provide another piece of data that can inform instructional practices and can also serve as another indicator of student growth.

I am working in a Teacher Cohort to develop an Internal Measure for Writing. We created prompts to direct student writing about science texts. Our rubrics were based upon Common Core State Standards expectations. Field tests of our writing prompts in classrooms across the state provided us with student papers to use as anchor papers, or examples, to help other teachers score the writing reliably. Our next steps include recommending how sufficient growth can be determined based upon our assessments.

What does this mean for teachers?

This example shows a way that teachers can get involved in shaping their own evaluations. By participating in workgroups to develop Internal Measures, teachers have an opportunity to voice their opinions. Currently, teachers are struggling to be heard in the conversation. This process may not be perfect yet, but it is developing and we need to work together to create fair and consistent teacher evaluation. Teachers need to grasp every opportunity to be involved in this process.

What does this mean for policymakers and administrators?

The work in Delaware has been completed during the work day with teachers provided with substitutes in their classrooms. Administrators can ensure that teachers are allowed to participate in workgroups such as these. Administrators can also participate in these workgroups and work alongside teachers.

Policymakers can increase the opportunities that teachers have to participate in the conversations and decisions being made about teacher evaluation. Invite teachers to the table for these discussions and involve teachers in decision-making opportunities. Be flexible for teachers by providing release time during the work day or allowing for remote conversations through conference calls and webinars or emails.

Final Thoughts

This work can be exhausting. When I leave, my brain hurts, but this work also serves to strengthen teacher understanding of writing instruction and expectations for student writing. It also increases collaboration and, above all, this work provides teachers with a sense of ownership. These assessments are crafted by teachers and that means something.

As we work to refine and improve teacher evaluation, as we always have in Delaware – especially now with the eyes of the Nation upon us due to Race to the Top, it is a positive move to have teachers involved in the process. I only hope that more teachers can be involved in increasingly valuable ways and that the decision-makers are able to listen to and act upon teacher feedback.

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