Fixing California's Broken Teacher Evaluation System: Lessons from Three School Districts

Mar 09, 2016, 13:22 ET from SRI International

MENLO PARK, Calif., March 9, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- A new study funded by the Stuart Foundation and conducted by J. Koppich & Associates and SRI Education, a division of SRI International, describes how three California school districts and their teachers' unions transformed their teacher evaluation systems. The report, "Replacing Teacher Evaluation Systems with Systems of Professional Growth and Improvement: Lesson from Three California School Districts and their Teachers' Unions," looked at school districts in San Juan (Sacramento County), Poway (San Diego County), and San Jose (Santa Clara County). All of the school districts have reset evaluation so that it focuses on teacher professional growth and improvement.

Transforming teacher evaluation to focus on career-long professional growth is particularly important in California as the state faces substantial teacher shortages concentrated in schools with large numbers of typically underserved low-income students and English learners.

Four key lessons were highlighted:

  • There is no one perfect teacher evaluation system: context matters.
  • Labor-management collaboration is essential.
  • Evaluation needs to be re-purposed and re-branded as "professional growth."
  • Reinventing the evaluation process takes time and persistence.

The report offers policy recommendations for improved teacher evaluation systems:

  • Signal priority for making teacher evaluation's purpose primarily about teacher growth and improvement.
  • Establish a competitive grant program to support local district efforts to transform their teacher evaluation systems. Grants should be awarded based on the districts' plans and their consistency with the key components identified in this research.
  • Refrain from mandating a uniform teacher evaluation system as has been attempted elsewhere.

The report points to seven key components for transforming teacher evaluation systems:

  1. Collaborative Creation—In each of the three study districts, developing new professional growth and improvement systems was a joint effort of the local teachers' union and the district leadership.
  2. Purpose and Branding—Reset teacher evaluation to emphasize professional growth and improvement requires changing teachers' and principals' mindset. Rebranding the system is key.
  3. Peer Review—Each district built its new professional growth system on experience with effective Peer Review and Assistance Programs (PAR).
  4. Evaluator Expertise and Capacity—These districts devoted significant time and resources to training principals and peer evaluators to ensure consistency and build observation and feedback skills.
  5. Joint Governance—A key component of the new evaluation systems is a teacher-administrator governance board (or panel) that oversees the system and makes key decisions about how teachers move professionally through their careers.
  6. Prototyping and Piloting—The experience of the case study districts strongly suggests the critical steps of prototyping and piloting prior to full system implementation.
  7. Role of Student Learning—These districts recognized the problems of using student test scores to measure teacher performance. Student learning remains the central goal, but the new systems use multiple measures to more accurately assess teaching and learning.

About SRI International
SRI International creates world-changing solutions making people safer, healthier, and more productive. SRI, a research center headquartered in Menlo Park, California, works primarily in advanced technology and systems, biosciences, computing, and education. SRI brings its innovations to the marketplace through technology licensing, spin-off ventures and new product solutions.

 

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