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ACT Report: Improve Teacher Evaluation

May 31, 2010

Accomplished California Teachers (the organization that sponsors this blog), has released its debut policy report, “A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom: Creating a Teacher Evaluation System that Works for California.”  EDIT (6/16/10) – Please go to our Publications page to download the press release, summary, or full report.

This report was produced through a long collaboration involving thirteen California public school teachers (including me) whose teaching and leadership experience, research, discussions, and writing provide the substance of the report, and whose consensus yielded the policy recommendations in the report.  Our group included teachers from up and down the state, with experience teaching from kindergarten to twelfth grade, in a variety of subject areas, in small schools and large, traditional schools and charters.  We had union members and non-members, several National Board Certified Teachers, and winners of all sorts of awards for teaching.  What we all had in common was a certainty that teacher evaluations can be done more effectively – and must be done more effectively, especially if other education reforms are to go forward with any chance of success.  Our hope is that policy-makers at every level in California will find it helpful to review the available research and models of evaluation as we did, and to consider our recommendations in light of the great need that exists not only to improve evaluations, but to do so in a way that is most likely to engage teachers in positive reforms rather than galvanize us against negative ones.  In the foreword to the report, Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, whose support was instrumental in creating ACT and supporting our work, suggests that quality teaching reform will require teacher leadership, and she advises that, towards that end,

We can begin by listening to the wise counsel of those most closely connected to the work.

For the thirteen teachers contributing to the report, our consensus on the specific recommendations came about through dozens of conversations, including online and face-to-face conferences.  (Our model in this work came from the Teacher Leaders Network and the Center for Teaching Quality, who have produced “Teacher Solutions” reports on performance pay and National Board Certification research).  We all agreed that, as accomplished teachers, we need more robust and ongoing evaluation processes to continue growing in our practice, and that the types of evaluation we found most effective or most promising would similarly help newer teachers to solidify their foundations in teaching, while helping struggling or ineffective teachers to improve, or understand why they should not continue teaching.

Here are the principles on which improved evaluations should be constructed:

  1. Teacher evaluation should be based on professional standards.
  2. Teacher evaluation should include performance assessments to guide a path of professional learning throughout a teacher’s career.
  3. The design of a new evaluation system should build on successful, innovative practices in current use.
  4. Evaluations should consider teacher practice and performance, as well as an array of student outcomes for teams of teachers as well as individual teachers.
  5. Evaluation should be frequent and conducted by expert evaluators, including teachers who have demonstrated expertise in working with their peers.
  6. Evaluation leading to permanent status (“tenure”) must be more intensive and must include more extensive evidence of quality teaching.
  7. Evaluation should be accompanied by useful feedback, connected to professional development opportunities, and reviewed by evaluation teams or an oversight body to ensure fairness, consistency, and reliability.

For more details, we hope you’ll read the report, or the summary of the report, both available on our Publications page.

This report, and the work of Accomplished California Teachers, are funded by the Stuart Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation, and sponsored by Stanford University through its National Board Resource Center.  ACT is directed by Sandy Dean, with the support of Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond.  Our second report, due out later this year, will provide more teacher-researched and teacher-written policy recommendations for professional compensation, capturing some of the intentions of performance-pay advocates while improving the career ladder for professional educators.

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