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November 1, 2012
Vol. 70
No. 3

Double Take

Research Alert

Getting Evaluation Right

How can schools evaluate teachers in nontested grades … weight student performance … report and use evaluation results? A new Public Impact report looks "under the hood" of teacher evaluation in 10 sites to share how those sites are addressing challenges related to implementing a high-quality teacher evaluation system.
The report studies systems in Delaware; Rhode Island; Tennessee; Hillsborough County, Florida; Houston, Texas; New Haven, Connecticut; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; Achievement First (a network of public charter schools); and the Relay Graduate School of Education in New York City. "None of these systems is perfect," the report points out, "but they do show us possible paths forward" (p. 1). Here are some highlights:
  • To assess student achievement in untested grades and subjects, most sites are choosing alternate measures, such as existing assessments, school or teacher-created assessments, and portfolios. Several sites, such as Houston and Delaware, are looking to use multiple measures even when standardized test data are available.
  • To calculate student growth, several states have adopted value-added models. Rhode Island uses a different measure—student growth percentiles, which show a student's progress compared with the student's academic peers. Some sites incorporate other methods, such as student growth from pre-test to post-test or student mastery of standards.
  • Administrators serve as observers of teachers' practice in every system reviewed. In several sites, teacher peers and third-party evaluators unaffiliated with the school also serve as observers.
  • Several sites are exploring nonacademic measures of teacher effectiveness, such as student perceptions (Pittsburgh); growth in student character (Achievement First and Relay Graduate School of Education); peer ratings (Achievement First); and contribution to the school community (Washington, D.C.).
  • Sites are taking steps to ensure data validity and accuracy by training, testing, and rating evaluators; using third-party evaluators; and conducting reviews to resolve any discrepancies between measures.
Measuring Teacher Effectiveness: A Look Under the Hood of Teacher Evaluation in 10 Sites was conducted by Public Impact and written by Daniela Doyle and Jiye Grace Han. The report is available at http://conncan.org/sites/conncan.org/files/research/measuring_teacher_effectiveness.pdf.

World Spin

Raising the Bar Down Under

In New South Wales, Australia, more than half the state's public school teachers may soon be required to meet the same rigorous standards and undergo the same testing used to assess and train new teachers. At present, teachers who entered the profession before 2004 can advance through the salary scales on the basis of tenure alone; they're not required to demonstrate improvement or show they're regularly updating their professional skills. The government proposal points out that because many senior teachers train and mentor new teachers, they should be subject to the same professional requirements as those they supervise.

Relevant Reads

<EMPH TYPE="3">What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the Worldby Taylor Mali (Putnam, 2012)
Many people have viewed the video "What Teachers Make," which went viral on YouTube. In the video, teacher Taylor Mali delivers an impassioned paean to the teaching profession (responding to a fellow dinner guest's insulting assertion that only a loser would enter a profession with such low compensation). This book expands on Mali's theme, presenting a wealth of moving stories and reflections from his nine years of teaching experience. What do teachers make? They make a difference.
"We tend to think of learning in the same way that we imagine a child grows taller: as a gradual, steady process marked by occasional spurts of accelerated progress. But the process of learning is more like a series of minor and major lightning bolts that strike the brain constantly. And if you have ever witnessed one of those moments occurring in someone else, then you know why teachers say it's one of the secret joys of the profession. Especially if they helped make it happen." (p. 54)

Numbers of Note

Only Online

Teacher Quality: The Tools You Need

Strengthening the quality of K–12 teaching—especially in high-poverty, hard-to-staff schools—is a tall order. Fortunately, the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality provides a vast online clearinghouse of resources for assessing and strengthening teacher quality.
The site includes a library of books and articles on teacher quality; a database detailing teacher evaluation policies in various U.S. states; an "Online Guide to Designing Comprehensive Teacher Evaluation Systems"; a list of trainings offered; and hundreds of free tools created by U.S. states, school districts, and nonprofit organizations.
Of particular interest is the extensive "Guide to Evaluation Products" section, which gives detailed descriptions and links to more than 75 evaluation tools currently being implemented in U.S. states or school districts. To help districts locate the tools most useful to them, the guide divides these resources into 10 categories, such as tools for observing teachers and principals, value-added models, and school climate surveys.


To improve the team, you don't study the scoreboard; you go out and practice.<ATTRIB>Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, p. 26</ATTRIB>

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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