Educators Key Players in Shaping New Teacher Evaluation Systems

A growing number of state teacher evaluation systems are focused exclusively on using tests to measure student growth or achievement. Even worse, administrators and education officials nationwide are employing evaluation systems with little input from educators or teacher organizations.

“As more states and districts seek to improve teacher evaluation, the risk is that reform is done to teachers rather than with them,” says National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel. “The momentum to reform teacher evaluation systems is growing, and educators need to be key players in these discussions and decisions.”

In 2011, delegates to the Representative Assembly of the National Education Association (NEA) developed the Policy Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability.

“The NEA policy statement was written by and for teachers and takes into account the evidence-based research on teacher evaluation,” Van Roekel says. “It outlines a system to help teachers improve instruction and meet students’ needs. It offers sweeping changes to raise up the profession of teaching by focusing on high expectations.”

As part of NEA’s work to counter flawed, regressive evaluation systems and implement the policy statement, NEA developed the toolkit on Association-led evaluation and accountability reforms – which contains model contract language, guiding principles, and real-world examples that can be used by education organizations to develop evaluation and accountability systems. This resource document is particularly designed for use by NEA state and local affiliates to help members understand teacher evaluation, as well as peer assistance, peer assistance and review, and fair dismissal. The overall purpose of this electronic resource is to help members become better advocates for teacher evaluation and assessment systems that are transparent, fair, and comprehensive.

Within the last two years, more than 20 states have adopted legislation to revise their teacher evaluation systems, and school districts in every state have implemented evaluation reforms. In some states, policymakers have consulted NEA affiliates and worked with them to develop comprehensive evaluation systems based on multiple measures of student achievement and traditional classroom observations.

Massachusetts developed new evaluation regulations in 2011 based on recommendations by a 40-member Educator Evaluation Task Force. Recommendations made by the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) in “Reinventing Educator Evaluation” guided the work of that task force. The standards contained in this evaluation system are adapted from the core propositions of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and the Interstate New Teachers Assessment and Support Consortium Standards (INTASC). Under this new system, evaluation procedures and weight given to student achievement measures are mandatory subjects of bargaining.

“If properly implemented, this new system will lead to better evaluations and improved teaching, learning and leadership in our schools,” said MTA President Paul Toner. “School committees and local Associations are going to have to work out the details of the new systems in bargaining to make sure they are workable, fair and effective. The MTA will provide local associations with guidance and support during this process.”

A ratified agreement between the Lincoln Park Education Association of New Jersey and the Board of Education of Lincoln Park, Morris County, offers contract language on alternate evaluation model and mentoring. In Rhode Island, the Cumberland Teachers Association Settlement Agreement makes it clear that the purpose of a professional development plan is to improve instruction and cannot be used for disciplinary purposes. The agreement ensures due process, access to grievance, and arbitration procedure immediately if a teacher rejects the review committee’s recommendation, including that of the neutral party.

New legislation, with input from the Washington Education Association (WEA), involves the use of data in evaluation in SIG schools. It creates a requirement for a four-tier teacher rating structure, and states conditions for the use of student growth data. It does not, however, require that student data be included. It defines student growth as a change in achievement over time.

New York State United Teacher’s (NYSUT) Teacher Evaluation and Development (TED) system is not a state model. It is an integrated system of teacher evaluation and growth that is based on extensive research on advancing teacher growth and student learning. TED was developed by joint labor-management teams from six school districts, and it is an excellent example of joint labor-management collaboration, shared leadership, and collective bargaining resulting in effective tools for positive and systemic change.

Participants from five NYSUT labor-management school district teams met with NYSUT officials last year and reported favorable results with the new evaluation system model.

“Our work will shape and inform the next generation of teacher evaluation,” NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira said at the time. “We’ve learned that collaboration is key to moving this complex work forward.”

In North Carolina, the evaluation system is the product of a strong collaborative effort among teachers, their representatives, and management. The Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory (McREL) assisted with the development of a statewide teacher growth model aligned with N.C. state standards. The teacher evaluation model places a very strong emphasis on teacher leadership and teachers’ advocacy for effective policies and practice that enhance student learning.

Despite the fact that North Carolina and New York mandate that a specific percentage of student growth data be used in teacher evaluation systems, an issue of huge importance to NEA, both state affiliates have been able to maintain collegial partnerships throughout the process.

“What makes this so different is that we’re taking the time to do it right, with field-testing, constant re-evaluation and tweaking,” said Neira. “And most importantly, its being led by practitioners who do the work every day.”