Race to the Top – Student Growth in Teacher and Principal Evaluations
By Mark Hansen | Eastland Superintendent of Schools
The Prairie Advocate News featured an eight (8) week series of articles explaining the different expectations of all school districts who are participating in Race to the Top 3. This is the last installment.
Educational reform over the last decade has adopted the philosophies of business and manufacturing – the Total Quality Management (TQM) or Six Sigma approaches to continuous improvement. For years, education in the United States rejected such efforts as not applicable to teaching and learning.
We should first acknowledge that there are problems with applying business management principles to education: 1) the question as to whether learning can be measured, and 2) the inevitable conflicts about what should be measured. Add to that a third, political consideration—who gets to decide what should be measured—and you can begin to understand why these management philosophies have been slow to take root in education.
Perhaps a better approach is to first accept the necessity of measurement. Teams and organizations measure outcomes in order to evaluate their effectiveness. Taking measurements periodically - in some standardized manner – can help us do that. Done well, these measures can provide the team, and individuals within the team, with an objective view of their performance.
Illinois law now requires that teachers and administrators be evaluated on their 1) professional practice, and 2) student growth. The new evaluations instruments change the focus of evaluation. For example, an administrator evaluating a teacher would have previously scripted the lesson from beginning to end, focusing on the teacher’s words and actions. Now, the evaluator is trained to focus on the students’ engagement in what they are doing.
The new system builds on this change in focus by adding student growth as a component of the evaluation. Just as two sports teams with different coaches and different philosophies can both be successful, effective teachers may not teach in the same way. The new evaluation system respects the freedom of the teacher to make informed choices and to play to his/her strengths, but insists that the quality of his/her teaching be judged partially on the extent to which students are learning.
As a Race to the Top district, Eastland will be implementing student growth as a “no stakes” component of teacher and principal evaluations in 2013-14. A Joint Evaluation Committee of administrators and teachers is working to define the measures that will be taken to evaluate student growth. New evaluations with student growth as a component of the final rating will be piloted in 2013-14, and implemented in 2014-15.
But the important and fundamental change is in the focus of the new evaluation system: on the students, rather than the professionals.