January 25, 2016
Teacher Evaluation Guidelines Detrimental to Student Learning
CEA calls for new, improved guidelines; releases plan that focuses on student achievement and success
Connecticut’s current teacher evaluation guidelines result in too much bureaucracy for teachers andadministrators and lost student learning time. The Connecticut Education Association is calling for changes to improve and simplify evaluation and professional development for Connecticut’s teachers.
The CEA plan breaks new ground by 1) emphasizing the progress of student work in the classroom instead of relying on an unreliable standardized test score, 2) reducing the complexity of the evaluation system, and 3) returning precious time to teachers and administrators who want more collaboration and student-educator interaction. CEA notes that its plan leaves key elements of the current teacher evaluation system intact, such as administrator observations of teacher practice, goal setting and achieving, and preserving a role for the state Department of Education.
CEA President Sheila Cohen said, “We cannot ignore the need for teacher evaluation that is based on authentic classroom learning instead of unreliable standardized tests that are not fair for students. That is why we have collaborated with teachers and administrators across the state to propose essential improvements to our evaluation system.”
“We have concluded the current system wastes too much time and resources,” said Dr. Anne Jellison, chair of the Connecticut Association of School Administrators (CASA) and principal of the Israel Putnam Elementary School in Meriden. “Most importantly, it yields too little for too many children and teachers. It is a one-size fits all system that is a poor substitute for a robust system that improves teacher practice so educators can improve student achievement. And it is too focused on counterproductive goals tied to an unreliable, standardized test score.”
Jellison added, “This plan provides more ways for teachers and administrators to work together toward innovative goals that help all students.”
CEA’s proposal is supported by a growing body of research:
- “Many researchers offered cautions about basing individual teacher evaluations on annual student test scores. Chief among these are the difficulties in attributing student gains to specific teachers, and challenges in disentangling teacher effects from those of school and home conditions, as well as from other student factors. Among these influences on learning are multiple teachers, parents, tutors and out-of-school learning supports, home conditions, and a variety of school conditions, such as curriculum quality, materials, class sizes, and administrative supports.” Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University, Getting Teacher Evaluation Right.
- “It is the ultimate irony that despite our hand-wringing about U.S. rankings in international assessments and our apparent desire to learn from high-performing nations, we ignore any lesson that the latter might offer. Finland has stated clearly that it would never—and has never—used test scores to rate or evaluate teachers. The same is true of other top performers such as Singapore and China. What is even more ironic is that these same competitors have been heavily influenced by U.S. educators, from John Dewey to Linda Darling-Hammond. It seems they learned critical lessons about curriculum and teaching from us, lessons that have helped them focus on learning versus testing, professionalize and support teachers, and demonstrate excellence in more ways than test scores. Wouldn’t we be wise to learn from them/ourselves?” Lin Goodwin, vice dean and professor of education at Columbia University Teachers College; author of Diversities in Early Childhood Education: Rethinking and Doing.
- “One of the most dangerous effects of teacher ratings based on test scores is that they will deter the aspiring teacher who wants to make a difference in schools with low resources and underserved populations from wanting to work there. The risk of public humiliation for working in the most challenging schools will result in an exodus of teachers from already hard to staff schools. Just as we will have an issue with teacher recruitment, there will be another issue of an exodus of good teachers from schools where they are most needed.” Christopher Emdin, director of science education at the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education; associate director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.
The CEA plan measures student growth and development in multiple ways that include but are not limited to: portfolios of student work aligned to the curriculum; student performance assessments or tasks assessed using a mutually agreed to scoring system (such as constructed projects, student oral work, and other written work); teacher developed tests aligned to the curriculum; and periodic assessments that document student growth over time.
“Policymakers must look to the research that shows us what works best in raising student achievement—not more and more testing, but authentic activities that promote critical thinking, creative problem-solving, collaboration, and communication,” Cohen said.
Problems with the current evaluation system:
- As the curriculum is narrowed to focus on increasing scores on high-stakes, standardized tests, students are denied other learning opportunities that lead to better long-term learning gains and a love of learning.
- Teacher and administrator time to focus on student learning needs is jeopardized by the complexity and time demands of the current evaluation system.
- Schools have become pressure cookers where education is driven and distorted by performance on unreliable standardized tests, instead of classroom work and achievement.
- The current teacher evaluation system promotes a punitive approach that treats students as data points and hinders teacher innovation and creativity.
“To let these problems fester is indefensible. It is time for students, parents, and teachers to have a simplified, coherent, and effective strategy in teacher evaluation that is 1) based on reliable and valid measures, 2) sensitive to the many skills and vast knowledge that our students must acquire, and 3) recognizes teachers’ desire for continuous improvement of their teaching practice,” said Cohen.
CEA is calling on the state Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC)—as well as the state legislature—to revise the guidelines as soon as possible. To assist these policymakers, CEA leaders today shared a comprehensive plan that will broaden the student curriculum, enrich children’s academic experiences, and promote a culture of professional learning among the state’s teaching force.
Mark Waxenberg, CEA executive director, said, “Portfolios that collect and evaluate student growth over time are valuable measures of student growth. Assessments that ask students to engage in complex activities, like designing and conducting a science experiment, researching a social science problem and writing a persuasive essay, or developing a green engineering design are far more engaging for students and are more valid at showing what a student knows and can do than an isolated test score.”
Waxenberg added, “The present system does not allow for critical time for innovation. Our plan opens the classroom doors and lets the sunlight of creativity in for students to shine.”
Cohen concluded, “We must return autonomy to the local teachers and administrators who understand the strengths and challenges of their communities and the best interests of their students.”