Educational Excellence

Policymakers across the world have tried different approaches to achieve educational excellence. In New Zealand, for example, the structure of the education system was changed in the 1990s, using a decentralized power structure with each school having its own board, much like a charter school. They focused on reducing centralized decision making and giving schools autonomy in governance. Five years into this restructuring, one-third of the schools were failing. One policymaker admitted that he was naive to think that restructuring a system could improve the quality of the education.

There are no magic formulas, or groundbreaking ideas, only sustained commitment to a set of values and practices can lead to lasting success. A review of research by Shannon and Bylsma lists nine common characteristics that were found in high-performing schools, and most systems included at least five traits.[i] The nine traits Shannon and Bylsma list are (directly quoted):

  1.     A clear and shared focus
  2.     High standards and expectations for all students
  3.     Effective school leadership
  4.     High levels of collaboration and communication
  5.     Curriculum, instruction and assessments aligned with state standards
  6.     Frequent monitoring of learning and teaching
  7.     Focused professional development
  8.     A supportive learning environment
  9.     High levels of family and community involvement

McKinsey studied twenty-five of the world’s school systems, including ten of the top-performers, and found that high quality systems, no matter how different in structure, politics, or culture, were successful because of a strong focus on quality instruction. The three qualities that lead to system success were[ii], high quality educators, effective professional development, and, “ensuring the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child.”

These characteristics are oversimplified when connecting them to U.S. schools. Teacher recruitment looks much different in systems due to differences in history, culture, and status of teaching. Teaching is a highly desirable profession in countries like Finland and Singapore because of leadership, collaborative structures, and supportive environments. McKinsey states the obvious, but often overlooked, “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.”[iii] In America, the lack of status in the teaching profession is a particular challenge that individual districts cannot control nationwide; however, districts can put into place an internal system that mitigates the challenge.

A study in Kentucky compared characteristics of high-performing and low-performing schools in the state.[iv] The authors found common traits among the high-performing schools that differed greatly from the lower-performing, high-poverty schools, including: “a schoolwide ethic of high expectations, caring, respectful relations between stakeholders; a strong academic and instructional focus; regular assessment of individual students; collaborative decision-making structures and a non-authoritarian principal; strong faculty morale and work ethic; and coordinated staffing strategies.”

Quality teaching force, effective and sustained professional development, and targeted support so that all children can achieve high standards requires improvements be made to other parts of the system, including funding and governance. It is improbable that any reform efforts that fail to address these traits will succeed in improving the quality of education in the system.

 

[i] Shannon, G.S. & Bylsma, P. (2007). The Nine Characteristics of High-Performing Schools: A research-based resource for schools and districts to assist with improving student learning. (2nd Ed.). Olympia, WA: OSPI.

[ii] https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/social-sector/our-insights/how-the-worlds-best-performing-school-systems-come-out-on-top

[iii] ibid

[iv] http://www.ascd.org/publications/researchbrief/v3n06/toc.aspx

 

Personalized Learning

On a broad level, personalized learning is instruction focused on the what, how, when, and where students learn, and tailored to the student’s individual needs, skills, and interests.¹ Personalized learning instruction can be taught on an individual or small group level. The concept is to meet students where they are, motivate learning based on student interest, and prepare students to be lifelong learners. Teachers are empowered to better tailor instruction to specific student needs. As with any instructional methodology, strong implementation is the key.

In, “Informing Progress: Insights on Personalized Learning Implementation and Effects,” one of the researchers’ key findings was that schools where personalized learning was implemented did not look as radically different from traditional schools as theory might predict.²

A key concern with personalized learning, though, is that proponents will misuse it to replace teachers or to change the role of teachers from educators to facilitators. Additionally, there is concern regarding feasibility in classrooms with a large number of students. However, research has shown that “student achievement is tied to a teacher’s capacity to carry the content to them personally through active instruction” (Brophy, 2006). Results such as this show that personalized learning tools are best used as supplements to teacher instruction.³ Anecdotes from teachers themselves reveal the value of using personalized learning systems in conjunction with holistic teaching practices.

There are also concerns with the influence of corporate and private interests on personalized learning through the technology industry. For example, the 2015 Education Plan of British Columbia utilized personalized learning as a key element. This included indirect input from OECD, Learning Frontiers, Cisco Systems Inc., Pearson Education, Promethean Ltd. The Ellen Koshland Family Fund, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the Global Education Leaders’ Partnership and BC Ministry of Education. The British Columbia Teachers Federation is concerned that the plan increases reliance on corporate educational technology and publishing companies. In contrast, some scholars maintain that personalized learning addresses socio-economic and educational realities of the 21st century. 4

 

¹ Childress, S. & Benson, S. (2014). Personalized Learning for  Every Student Every Day. The Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 95, No. 8, 33-38.

² Pane, J.F., Steiner, E., Baird, M., Hamilton, L., Pane, J.D. (2017). Informing Progress: Insights on Personalized Learning Implementation and Effects. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2042.html

³ Bulger, M. (2016). Personalized Learning: The Conversations We’re Not Having. https://datasociety.net/pubs/ecl/PersonalizedLearning_primer_2016.pdf

4 Childress, S. & Benson, S. (2014). Personalized Learning for  Every Student Every Day. The Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 95, No. 8, 33-38.

 

 

 

 

Shared Accountability and Teacher Retention

Over the past several decades, educational accountability in the United States has been based on a test-and-punish approach where teachers and schools are valued, in large part, on student standardized assessment performance. The OECD refers to this practice as “vertical accountability,” where student performance each group is only accountable to those above them, and teachers, schools, and districts are rewarded or punished based on test scores. The OECD, however, suggests that to attract and retain high performers into teaching, the U.S. needs to shift to a system of more horizontal (or professional) accountability, where teachers are held accountable to their fellow teachers and principals as well as to parents. This type of system allows teachers to feel more ownership of their jobs and to be treated as professionals, which is critical to their (and their students’) success. Top-performing countries such as Japan and Finland place a great emphasis on this professional accountability, and teachers have time to collaborate, observe each other, and work together to improve their practice.¹

In its review of schools across the world, the OECD also suggests that schools and districts are increasingly more effective when leadership is distributed among various individuals or groups rather than when it comes from the top down. School leadership teams can play a vital role in school development, and having a more dispersed or shared leadership system can help to improve overall instructional practice. Research supports the idea that distributed leadership can improve school outcomes. This will look different based on the circumstances of each school or district, but can mean reexamining roles for teachers, leadership teams, principals, and school boards and cover responsibilities such as human resources, curriculum, and student policies.²

Top-down accountability comes from a business approach to running schools, with quick results that give schools data of how students are performing. Hargreaves and Fullan suggest that focusing more on professional capital will provide a greater influence on school improvement and student outcomes. Professional capital assumes that teaching is difficult and requires technical knowledge, practice, and continuous improvement. A focus on social capital can look different in different places, but all show a shift in accountability. For instance, in Finland, curriculum is developed locally to allow the teachers and leaders in schools to determine the needs for their students. In Singapore and Japan, teachers have the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas with each other on an ongoing basis.³

 

Direct Instruction and Constructivism

The OECD describes direct instruction as where “a teacher’s role is to communicate knowledge in a clear and structured way, to explain correct solutions, to give students clear and resolvable problems, and to ensure calm and concentration in the classroom.”¹ Constructivism, on the other hand, “focuses on students not as passive recipients but as active participants in the process of acquiring knowledge,” and gives “students the chance to develop solutions to problems on their own, and allow[s] students to play active role in instructional activities.”² There is debate on which strategy is best for student learning and teachers vary in their approaches. 

Wiggins and McTighe state that content and thinking are inseparable, that a person cannot think about nothing and conceptual understand requires cognitive skills.³ This statement acknowledges that direct instruction and constructivism must go hand in hand, that there is actually a continuum of learning rather than simply an either/or for how to teach and learn. The OECD found that direct instruction has a positive impact on student achievement, but that the teacher must provide learning opportunities that are recognized and utilized by the student in order to be effective.

Noddings advocates interdisciplinary lessons that engage students to examine how the material in their curricula relates to their own lives. 4 He believes that standardized tests are not bad because of the facts that are taught and tested, but because there needs to be more of a critical thinking piece for students to connect with the material. This combination of direct instruction and constructivism is vital to student success.

Neuman maintains that background knowledge is crucial to a child’s academic success.5 Her focus on early childhood finds that many students, especially from low-income families, come to school with a knowledge deficiency that later impacts their comprehension and skill development. For these students, thinking critically and developing solutions are a challenge because they are “information have-nots.” Teachers must help students develop understanding of knowledge and concepts as a foundation for later learning. “We must develop pedagogy that is both sensitive to children’s development and representative of conceptual knowledge that has sufficient coherence and depth.” Direct instruction is a necessary base for constructivist teaching, and the two methods are inseparable for true knowledge building.


1.  https://www.oecd.org/berlin/43541655.pdf

2.  https://www.oecd.org/berlin/43541655.pdf

3. Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design .Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

4.  Noddings, N. Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

5. Neuman, S. (2006). “How We Neglect Knowledge and Why.” American Educator, http://www.readingrockets.org/article/how-we-neglect-knowledge-and-why

 

Special Education and Inclusion

In the 1980s and 1990s, inclusion became the the most important issue in special education. 1 Experts agree that students with disabilities should not be taught in special, separate classrooms and schools.

Research has consistently shown that the inclusion of students with disabilities into general education classrooms has favorable outcomes for those students. 2 In one study, it was shown that for nine elementary school students with severe disabilities, general education classrooms delivered more instruction, provided comparable 1:1 time with the instructor, addressed more content, and used non-disabled peers more and adults less. Another study showed that students with learning disabilities made more progress in math in general education settings than in traditional special education settings. 3 Students also had increases in spelling, social studies, and other academic areas.

Inclusion led to positive educational outcomes beyond academics. 4 A longitudinal study of 11,000 students with a range of disabilities found that more time spent in a general education classroom was correlated positively with fewer absences from school, fewer referrals for disruptive behavior, and better outcomes after high school in employment and independent living. Studies show that inclusion does not have a negative impact on the learning of typical peers, including instructional time and student engagement. 5 Those students without disabilities were shown in one study to make comparable or greater gains in reading and math when taught in inclusive settings vs. traditional classrooms. Typical peers benefit from involvement and relationships with students who have disabilities and are open to new learning opportunities.

Successful inclusion depends on the quality of the inclusion program, training of the teachers, and administrator leadership. 6 Educators need to assist students in developing the appropriate social and behavioral skills that will allow them to be integrated into the class. Teacher perceptions of inclusion are mixed, mainly varied based on implementation, administrative support, resources, and training. School districts should include all school and community groups in developing a mission statement to articulate the district’s vision around inclusion and a strategic plan for providing resources, time, and support for achieving the mission.

1. Crockett, J. B., & Kauffman, J. M. (1999). The least restrictive environment: Its origins and interpretations in special education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc;

2. Bui, X., Quirk, C., Almazan, S., & Valenti, M. (2010). Inclusive education research & practice. Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education. Retrieved from http://www.mcie.org/usermedia/application/6/inclusion_works_final.pdf

3. http://www.mcie.org/usermedia/application/6/inclusion_works_final.pdf

4. http://www.mcie.org/usermedia/application/6/inclusion_works_final.pdf

5. http://www.mcie.org/usermedia/application/6/inclusion_works_final.pdf

6. Salend, S. J., & Garrick Duhaney, L. M. (1999). The impact of inclusion on students with and without disabilities and their educators. Journal for Special Educators, 20(2), 114-126.

Open response to Directors Geddes and Peck

The Douglas County Federation (DCF) is compelled to respond to the misinformation shared by Director Geddes at this week’s board meeting (and later affirmed by Director Peck). Dr. Geddes stated that the DCF is opposed to performance-based pay or basing a teacher’s salary on evaluation.

In fact, in 1994, long before it was en vogue to adopt such programs, the DCF helped develop an award winning pay for performance system in collaboration with district administration. That system was developed with participation of teachers, principals, school board members, parents, and community members, and included bonuses and negative consequences based on evaluations. Notably, some community members that served on the pay committee developed compensation systems in the private sector as part of their profession. Every aspect of a teacher’s career was reviewed and considered as the system was designed. The guiding principle at every meeting and for every decision was, “Is this best for our students?”

The system worked and Douglas County School District’s (DCSD’s) children and employees flourished for years. These are undeniable, provable, documented facts. Unfortunately, that pay system and the guiding principal of employee and community collaboration were summarily ended with the ideological shift of DCSD’s board several years ago.

However, one thing Director Geddes did say last night was true; the current teacher evaluation system, CITE, is not supported by teachers. It is convoluted, counter productive, misaligned, and often manipulated for political reasons. It has created a negative environment in our schools and is one of the main factors in our district’s outrageous teacher turnover rate.

But those are not the main reasons teachers don’t like it. Like the current top-down, dysfunctional, punitive, and educationally unsound pay system, the current teacher evaluation system is not good for kids. Teachers know what is best for their students and they know that these two systems make it harder for them to do their jobs, and ultimately to meet the needs of their students.

It is regrettable that Directors Geddes and Peck chose not to attend the DCF teacher panel discussion, where they would have learned the truth about what teachers, principals, and community members believe, and instead choose to invent a story that fits their political narrative, but is blatantly untrue.

Sincerely,

Kallie Leyba
President, Douglas County Federation

Importance of School Sponsored Services and Activities

Importance of School Sponsored Services and Activities

The focus on standardized testing and school budget cuts over the past few decades has led to a watering down of curriculum and a decrease of wraparound supports. Services such as school busses, medical care, and food are all factors that contribute to students attending and being engaged while at school, so it is critical that children’s social needs are met as well as their academic needs.[1] Research also shows the importance of providing students with access to extra-curricular activities, such as sports, performing arts, publications, and clubs.[2]

In order to enjoy their right to a free education, many students rely on school busses to transport them to school. Gottfried found that students who ride the bus in kindergarten “are absent less often and have lower odds of being chronically absent, a key indicator of future academic success.”[3] Absenteeism is damaging to the student who misses school, with its short-and long-term effects on academic performance and future absenteeism. It is also damaging to the other students in the class, because “when classmates miss more school, all students in the classroom tend to have lower test scores.”

A Brookings study showed that the benefits of integrating wraparound supports far outweighed the benefits of those programs to the students.[4] Elementary school students in a large urban district received personalized supports such as food, medical care, and after school programs. Those students demonstrated better grades, effort, and attendance when compared with peers who did not participate in the program. Those students continued to succeed in future school years, with a reduction in the achievement gap and a dropout rate cut nearly in half. There was also a financial return on investment in the program.

Beyond having their basic needs met, students also benefit when schools provide them with extracurricular activities. These activities are important in order to give students a channel for reinforcing the lessons learned in the classroom.[5] Research suggests that “participation in extracurricular activities may increase students’ sense of engagement or attachment to their school, and thereby decrease the likelihood of school failure and dropping out.” One study found participation in athletics to be a significant predictor of school dropout.[6] Another study showed participation in extracurricular activities to be positively associated with higher education attainment and future earnings.[7]

School supports have an underlying equity issue, because some students need additional funding and transportation to participate in many of these activities, with growing gaps between upper-middle class and working class families and their ability to pay for activities with both time and money.[8] Incorporating services and activities into the school budget helps ensure equal access and benefits for all students.

[1]https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/07/15/wraparound-services-still-worth-it-even-after-accounting-for-all-costs/

[2] https://nces.ed.gov/pubs95/web/95741.asp

[3] http://www.aera.net/Newsroom/News-Releases-and-Statements/Bus-Taking-Linked-to-Lower-Kindergarten-Absenteeism

[4]https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/07/15/wraparound-services-still-worth-it-even-after-accounting-for-all-costs/

[5] https://nces.ed.gov/pubs95/web/95741.asp

[6] http://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=psych_honproj

[7] http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0002716214548398?journalCode=anna[8] http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0002716214548398?journalCode=anna

 

Employee Raises

Dear DCSD Board, Interim Superintendent, and Cabinet Members:

At the June 6, 2017 board meeting, cabinet and board members expressed agreement that teachers and staff need to be paid more, and we appreciate and agree with the sentiment. At the very least, increasing teacher and staff pay is necessary for DCSD to become competitive with surrounding districts, but additionally, this is necessary to demonstrate that the DCSD values its employees. As you stated at the meeting, the 2% average raise is woefully inadequate, and to quote Director Geddes, “How can you have pay for performance when you can’t pay for performance?” His statement is truer than than many might know. Using the current controversial evaluation coupled with the flawed pay for performance system, a teacher whose salary is $45,000 and who earned an Innovative rating (above Proficient) earns merely an additional $11.25 per month, before taxes. Teachers were promised real rewards for their additional work; all of our educators deserve better.

Surrounding districts have approved far greater pay raises than DCSD. For example, this year Cherry Creek School District (CCSD) is offering a 3.3% market adjustment in addition to step increases between 3-8%, for a total raise of 6.3-11.3% and an additional raise of 2-5% for knowledge level advancement (KLA). In other words, some teachers in CCSD who have worked towards a first or second Master’s degree are getting raises of 8.3-16.3%. Even if DCSD cuts administrative department budgets and is able to give teachers and staff a 6% increase this year, we will not close the gap with this neighboring district.

Some on the board believe that increasing pay is the only way to improve employee morale; we know for a fact that this is not the case. Educators recognize the constraints of working within a budget. In the past, when the district worked collaboratively with the Douglas County Federation, teachers voted for a pay freeze and had much higher staff morale, as measured by the district’s own employee survey. This is because both organizations worked together on the budget, teachers and staff knew that their voices were heard, and they knew that the district was being transparent. Unfortunately, with an increase of over $21 million in administrative department budgets over the past three school years and no one representing teachers and staff working collaboratively on the budget, employees do not trust that our finances are as dire as what is presented. The DCF executive board knows that the budget can be re-worked to decrease administrative spending and prioritize spending on those who work directly with our students.

Finally, one director’s suggestion at a recent meeting (along with complementary tweets) demonstrates a lack of basic understanding of public budgeting. The suggestion was that parents need to start paying more fees for services and activities such as “football, choir, food, childcare, and busses.” Parents pay fees for football and other extracurricular activities; the fees are used to cover the costs for the activity and cannot be used for salary increases. Choir is among many performing and practical arts electives that meet graduation requirements, without which the graduation rates in DCSD could potentially drop. The district subsidizes food only by absorbing the costs from voluntarily discontinuing the federal reimbursement program, acknowledging that nutrition services are a successful enterprise. An increase of bus fees would likely result in fewer families using busses, resulting in great traffic issues around our schools. None of these options is a practical solution for the funding of salary increases. Additionally, if our district wants to compete for students with surrounding districts, asking for increased payment from parents for these important services and activities is a bad decision.

There are two famous sayings that apply to this important issue. First is that the budget reflects the values of the organization. Second is to put your money where your mouth is. Providing frontline workers in our schools with only a 2% raise demonstrates how little the majority of the Board values teachers and makes many of their words ring hollow. It’s time for the entire Board to prioritize teaching and learning in our district and give teachers a fair, substantial, and well deserved raise–a raise significantly higher than 2%. This is not an issue of the ability as much as it is a willingness to pay–pure and simple.

Respectfully,

Kallie Leyba

President

 

Teacher Turnover

Teachers are the most important in-school factor in a student’s education, but there has been little commitment across states and districts to ensure equitable access to effective teachers.[i] Areas that serve low-income students and students of color have higher rates of teachers who are not certified in their subject area. Teachers in these areas also have access to fewer resources, less time to collaborate, and less access to excellent mentor teachers. About 13% of the teaching workforce moves or leaves the profession each year, and the neediest schools have roughly 50% more turnover than more affluent schools. We know new teachers can be skilled, but great teaching is often developed over time and through experience. With high rates of turnover, students do not have the opportunity to learn from an experienced teacher.

Teacher turnover costs the United States up to $2.2 billion annually in recruitment and replacement.[ii] Beyond cost, turnover can have detrimental effects on students. One study found that teacher turnover had a significant and negative impact on student achievement in both ELA and math, and turnover was particularly harmful to students in schools with large population of low-performing and black students.[iii] Turnover impacted not only those students with newer teachers, but also those students of returning teachers in buildings with high turnover, indicating turnover impacts the entire building. This could be due to a loss of collegiality or trust, or a loss of institutional knowledge among faculty.

Many teachers leave because of working conditions and the way teachers are treated in schools and in our society.[iv] There is evidence that accountability policies in recent years have led to an increase in teacher turnover.[v] One study showed that schools that were successful on accountability measures such as standardized state or district assessments had better retention than schools with lower performance. Other factors, such as leadership support, classroom resources, school-wide influence, and background characteristics all contributed to teacher turnover. Accountability policies themselves are not the problem, and likely they are not going away at least in some form. However, within those policies, teachers must be given the tools time, and resources they need in order to meet the standards to which they are being held. One key way of doing this is to give teachers autonomy over instructional decisions in their classrooms.

[i] Haynes, M., & Maddock, A. (2014). On the path to equity: improving the effectiveness of beginning teachers. Alliance for Excellent Education, retrieved from http://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/PathToEquity.pdf

[ii] http://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/PathToEquity.pdf

[iii] Ronfeldt, M., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2013). How teacher turnover harms student achievement. American Educational Research Journal50(1), 4-36.

[iv] http://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/PathToEquity.pdf

[v] Ingersoll, R., Merril, L., & May, H. (2016). Do accountability policies push teachers out? The Working Lives of Educators, 73 (8), pp. 44-49, retrieved from https://scholar.gse.upenn.edu/rmi/files/accountability_policies_2016.pdf

Teacher-Time Panel Discussion

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 7.36.07 PM

During the April 18, 2017 Board meeting, Director David Ray stated that he wants to hear from teachers now that the district has the results of both the teacher-time survey and the employee survey. He is interested to know what teachers would like to see happen based on the survey results. We know other board members are interested in hearing from teachers as well. 

On May 8, 2017, 6:30 p.m., DCF will hold a teacher panel discussion with teachers and Board members to address the results and recommendations from teachers.  

All DCSD Board Members have been invited. The event will be held at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, in the Event Center conference rooms from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. This event is open to the public. Please spread the word and RSVP here.

 

DCSD Survey Results 2017

Douglas County School District (DCSD) worked with Corona Insights to conduct a comprehensive survey of employees, parents, students, and community. The results of the survey will be presented to the community and the Board of Education on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The survey results in many ways mirror the results of the surveys the Douglas County Federation commissioned in 2012 and 2015.

Some specific concerns discovered are below:

 

  • 87% of teachers with over five years experience in the district disagree that the climate and culture of the district make for positive work environment.
  • 86% of veteran teachers disagree that the evaluation system accurately measures a teacher’s effectiveness.
  • 79% of all teachers (and 89% of those with over five years experience) disagree that the district has a good public image.
  • Only 8% of teachers with over five years experience believe that the district listens to their concerns.
  • Three out of every four teachers disagree that the current pay system is fair; 83% of teachers disagree that the current pay system attracts or retains quality candidates to DCSD.

We sincerely hope that DCSD will realize that their employees need a seat at the table, and that their voices need to be heard. Employees offered similar feedback in multiple surveys over the past several years, but DCSD discounted each of those surveys. We are grateful that the district finally conducted their own assessment to validate the previous results.

 

Teacher Evaluation: Managing Time to Balance Effective Accountability Systems

All students deserve a high quality teacher in their classroom. Throughout the history of schooling in the United States, teachers have served as the providers of the information students learn, and it has been widely said that a quality teacher is the most important in-school factor affecting student achievement. Since at least the 1800s teacher evaluation has been used in some form to help understand teacher performance, but it is critical that these evaluations be used correctly and effectively.

Teacher evaluations can be used for two main purposes. Formative evaluations are used to improve teaching through feedback on performance and finding corresponding professional development. Summative evaluations are used to support employment decisions such as salary, tenure, and dismissals. Both are needed in order to properly assess how a teacher is performing and how to address areas of need (or areas to reward for success). However, over two-thirds of states made changes to their teacher evaluation laws since 2009, making student growth data a “significant factor” in evaluation.

Research indicates that student achievement data itself does not provide adequate information to improve teacher practice and should not be used for employment decisions, but many of the new laws have done just that. These test scores are not being used to guide interventions, so the impact of these reforms is extremely limited. Standardized test results are used mainly as a point value in an appraisal resulting in high-stakes decisions, such as salary changes and the possible firing of teachers. Teachers receive little actionable information or guidance about how these test results can improve their teaching quality. Other countries give greater weight to using performance data to guide intervention, reveal best practices and identify shared problems, while in the U.S. performance data are often used for purely accountability purposes.

An effective accountability system is a quality present in all countries with high-performing education systems. True professional accountability systems hold teachers accountable to their principals and to other teachers—those who know and understand what the teacher does every day. In Ontario, for instance, teachers are partners and work together to improve their practice. Similarly, Japanese teachers employ lesson study, a method used throughout their careers to design, practice, and improve lessons and teaching strategies. Some countries successfully combine professional accountability and administrative accountability. But tests are used in combination with other measures, and evaluations are used to reward or improve teaching—not to punish or fire teachers.

Current teacher evaluation systems have changed how teachers spend their time. Teachers in this country already spend more time in the classroom than teachers in other countries who get more time to collaborate and lesson plan. Now, teachers must spend more time on test prep to ensure their students score well since that is a significant factor in their evaluations. Teachers also must spend their collaborative time scoring and looking over student data rather than talking about students and instruction. This means teachers have less time to have meaningful professional conversations with colleagues and less opportunity to support and develop relationships with students.


 

[1] Haertel, E. (2013). Reliability and Validity of Inferences about Teachers Based on Student Test Scores, Stanford University, Angoff Memorial Lecture, https://www.ets.org/s/pdf/23497_Angoff%20Report-web.pdf.

[1] Mathers, C., Oliva, M., & Laine, S. (2008). Improving Instruction through Effective Teacher Evaluation: Options for States and Districts. TQ Research & Policy Brief, http://www.gtlcenter.org/sites/default/files/docs/February2008Brief.pdf.

[1] Haertel, E. (2013).

[1] OECD (2013). Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA 2012 for the United States, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264207585-en.

[1] OECD, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers.

[1] Network for Public Education (2016). Teachers Talk back: Educators on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation, https://networkforpubliceducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/NPETeacherEvalReport.pdf.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/09/oecd-teacher-salary-report_n_5791166.html, from OECD http://www.oecd.org/edu/Education-at-a-Glance-2014.pdf