Last month, educators from Rochester Community Schools took part in a district site visit and round table discussion on teacher evaluation with State Representative Tom McMillin (45th House District, R-Rochester Hills) a current member, and former chair, of the House Education Committee. Throughout the day, teachers and administrators expressed their thoughts, questions, and wonderings about teacher evaluation. Visiting in-session classrooms at an elementary, middle, and high school, context was added to comments about teacher evaluation based on examples of effective instruction and how it is not a one-dimensional matter.
Some of the main points offered to Rep. McMillin and the House Education Committee on teacher evaluation included:
- Teacher evaluation should not have a punitive focus, but rather promote professional development of teaching practice; tenure reform was enacted in 2011 to address the removal of ineffective teachers, the evaluation process should not be made to be another tool to accomplish that end.
- The fraction of evaluation based on state and local assessments should be left up to local districts to set on a sliding scale, where the sum of state and local assessments percentages would make up half of the teacher evaluation, but that they do not both have to be equally weighted at one-quarter of the evaluation score.
- Value-added modeling should not be used to tie an individual teacher’s effectiveness rating to student scores, especially in the case of teachers who do not teach a given subject (for example, a special education teacher,) because there are so many factors to clearly identify a single teacher’s impact on student learning.
- If the state is going to mandate a teacher evaluation tool, they should not select only a single tool for all schools, but rather provide all four options recommended by the MCEE and allow individual school districts to choose. Many schools have been working with one of the four piloted teacher evaluation systems recommended by the MCEE for years, making a single selection for the entire state would put some districts at a head start while others would be behind in implementing that evaluation system.
- The four options for evaluation systems should include:
- School districts know their students best and should have as much local control flexibility in their teacher evaluation process as the legislation could grant latitude.
- Evaluators need to be keenly trained on identifying best practice instruction. Observation of teaching practice can be more objective than some might think. Research has shown what some of the most effective teaching strategies are, and the MCEE piloted evaluation tools that focus on these best practices.
- Objectivity in teacher evaluation can be obtained using observation and rubric scoring of teaching practice, and that professional practice should not be underestimated.
- Interim, or ongoing, assessments should have the ability to count in a teacher evaluation for the student growth portion, which constitutes the locally determined assessment component, because it gives more timely feedback to teachers and students to inform practice and learning outcomes than state assessments.
The discussion with teachers and Rep. McMillin was illuminating for all involved. There are so many considerations for student success with learning outcomes that we cannot expect this to be a simple situation that is easily measurable in a one-dimensional way. Sharing the pragmatics of classroom teaching revealed how measuring the effectiveness of teaching with a single standardized test is more complex than it might seem.
Overall, Mr. McMillin communicated that all ideas are still up for consideration in the House Education Committee with regard to teacher evaluation legislation. He seemed receptive to the ideas and suggestions, as well as the concerns and questions, offered by teachers throughout the day. He took back ideas to his fellow legislators in the House Education Committee from educators in support of building in as much local control flexibility as possible into the evaluation legislation, providing options for an evaluation tool to districts, avoiding value-added modeling, and ensuring that districts would make the teacher evaluation process a means for supporting teaching practice, not punishing it, for the benefit of students.
Ultimately, all individuals involved in the day had the opportunity to engage in productive discourse centered on ensuring that high-quality teaching and learning happens for Michigan students. Everyone agreed that the tenure reform of 2011 created a punitive means of accountability and that teacher evaluation should not be another punishment system. The teacher evaluation legislation will be a complex undertaking for lawmakers, but by taking into account the findings of the MCEE report, the insights of classroom teachers and ideas of school administrators, we can develop an evaluation process that supports the development of teachers, promotes the learning of students, and does not reduce education to a simple input-output algorithm.
Photo Credit: Gary G. Abud, Jr.
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