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New Teacher Evaluation System

Ever wondered how teachers get evaluated in places other than Mainz? Well, check out this post on developments in the U.S.. You’ll be surprised.

All American states are micromanaging principals to a degree never seen before. For example, in Memphis, Tennessee, principals are required to have a pre-observation conference with each teacher (which takes 20 minutes), observe the teacher for a period (50 minutes), conduct a post-observation conference (20 minutes), and fill out a rubric with 19 variables and give teachers a score from 1 to 5 (40 minutes).

Elsewhere concerns over cost are manifest with the California legislative analysis calculating that the cost of implementing a best practices teacher evaluation system is approximately $500,000 per school district to provide teachers training to conduct evaluation observations.

Cincinnati has one of the most rigorous teacher evaluation systems in the country, entailing four largely unannounced classroom observances by trained evaluators that occur throughout an academic year, and even GED teachers need to go through this sort of procedures. What has been learned in study of that system?

The bulk of the cost for the Cincinnati system is in personnel, as it can cost about $900,000 per year to take 12 or 13 of the best teachers out of the classroom to train and serve as evaluators. While that’s a lot of money, it is roughly about $4,000 per teacher evaluated each year, and for an elementary teacher with 20 students, this is about $200 per student.

There is a new teacher evaluation system adopted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that cost the district $605,000 to implement.  Teachers and administrators are evaluated under the new system once a year. Half of their score is based on qualitative factors, such as the principal’s observations of how a teacher interacts with the class.

The other half of the evaluation is based on quantitative data such as student’s increasing or decreasing scores on standardized tests, or class grades.  The Tulsa School Board approved two contracts to get the pilot off the ground. The first was for $205,000 for the actual data analysis and the second amounted to $450,500 to a different company that will teach employees how to use the data in evaluations, according to the Tulsa World.

Funding, however, is not the most serious issue with teacher evaluation proposals.

Others have reported  leading testing experts’ testimony to the New York Board of Regents, the report of the National Research Council, and cautionary reports on Value Added Models from RAND Educational Testing Service and the National Academy of Education.  All are in agreement that student achievement tests should not be the over-riding criteria for judging teacher performance.

Multiple teacher evaluation programs in different districts reveal that “…across five large urban districts, among teachers who were ranked in the top 20% of effectiveness in the first year, fewer than a third were in that top group the next year, and another third moved all the way down to the bottom 40%.”  There appears to be no evidence in the short Louisiana trial that contradicts this finding in other districts.

Beyond costs and the inconsistency of results that cast a shadow of doubt about the relevance of value added testing is another issue, as yet unresolved, about how high student mobility rates, with their dislocated beginning and ending scores, will impact a teacher’s evaluation.  If incoming students are excluded from scoring, teachers may be less likely to focus attention on helping them.  Reports are that in New Orleans RSD schools and in East Baton Rouge Parish schools more than 40% of students move at least once during the school year to another school.

The huge cloud over systems for evaluating teacher performance in classrooms all across the nation, portend a stormy future.  Without a doubt plaintiff lawyers will experience a pickup in business as teachers, who believe themselves to be victims of flawed system output, seek to restore their reputations.

Protests by thousands on the Capitol steps accompanied by millions of words commenting in state news media grew out of  rush to implement a new and untested method of evaluating performance of public school teachers.

No mention is made of evaluating teachers in private and church schools where increasingly tax-payer money will be diverted to pay for vouchers and tax credits.  Nor is there a willingness to require that the private schools be held accountable. In an interesting hypocrisy (there are so  many in these “reforms”) the governor and his minions claim that there is no need for accountability, for parents know when a school is good for their children, but somehow in our public schools those same parents need letter grades and all forms of accountability measures.

Those issues have been hammered before un-listening legislative committees but remain unrecognized in the instruments that will put the legislation into the Revised Statutes.

Less recognized are the costs of doing the teacher evaluation business.  They are substantial!  A review of the Budget Letter that was taken down from the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) website last week reveals there is no allowance for the cost increases expected to implement this new system

A one-year pilot envisioned in Act 54, the legislation mandating the development of a new system, shrank to less than three months and training conducted by the LDOE that was completed in late March was wasted as changes in the system dictate a summer start-over.

Can Louisiana tax payers expect the developing teacher evaluation system to consume significant spending that is now being spent in classrooms?

There is growing concern in Colorado that the state won’t be able to afford the new reforms and the on-going costs associated with establishing the teacher evaluation system. There are currently requests for $7.7 million to pay for the staffing of the teacher effectiveness program.

In Connecticut, every teacher portfolio is scored using the program’s standards by three state-trained teacher-evaluators who teach the same subject as the candidate. Failing portfolios are rescored by a fourth evaluator. As in the Teacher Advancement Program (now piloted in Louisiana) program, scorers must complete nearly a week’s worth of training and demonstrate an ability to score portfolios accurately before participating in the program.

In Seattle, the truth is that $3.9 million dollars is strictly for operational costs to put the new evaluation system in place; it does not include any of the stipends for career ladders, stipends for working in low performing schools, or the 1 percent increase for opting in to the program.

In Maine, a comprehensive performance evaluation and professional growth system for teachers brought this comment in the required fiscal note:  “This legislation requires the Department of Education to establish a targeted funds component within the Essential Programs and Services funding model beginning with the 2013-2014 school year to be used to assist school.”  The fiscal office observed that while the costs to implement cannot, at this time, be determined they predicted the local costs would be substantial.

Then there is Race to the Top winner Tennessee.  Education Week reported that things were so bad in Tennessee; there was a danger that the Race to the Top grant program would be undermined elsewhere. The education adviser to the Governor addressed the Louisiana commission tasked with developing a system and said that after more than 10 years of using value added the state still had not solved all of the problems.

In some districts, the increased pace associated with evaluations is straining the workload of administrators. Memphis officials realized that under the new rules, their district would need to conduct more than 28,000 classroom observations annually, a task that could overwhelm the city’s school principals.  Even so-called “reformers” agree that building leadership is the chief driver of academic excellence.

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