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Are We Ready for a Teacher Evaluation System Based on Multiple Measures?

In a recent dialogue between Secretary Duncan and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), the Secretary emphasized using multiple measurements in response to CEC's concern about linking teacher pay to student performance on annual state tests:

A teacher's effectiveness in the classroom must be determined using multiple measures. These measures should include observations by trained evaluators who have knowledge about teaching, the subject matter, and the context. They could also include student and parental feedback and portfolios of student work. And the evaluations should include the academic growth their students make over the course of a year. Growth should be determined based on fair and objective assessments, but should not be based on the results of one test given a single day. States and districts should consider using results from district-developed assessments or portfolios of student work throughout the year graded against a consistent rubric.
-Secretary Arne Duncan, A Conversation with CEC Members, 2011.

The issue of linking test scores to evaluation is a controversial topic. Aside from the numerous environmental and contextual factors impacting student achievement that are beyond a teacher's control, it's been estimated that 80% of teachers do not teach in subjects where standardized tests are available.

It's encouraging to see that the Department of Education (ED) is moving in this direction of using multiple measures in teacher evaluation. Yet, for multiple measures to become a viable alternative to using test scores, educators at the state and district level need to start analyzing how such a system would work on a practical level.

Ultimately, ED can promote using multiple measures for teacher evaluation, but the challenge then rests on how states and districts can implement this concept effectively and efficiently.

During the week of the CEC Conference in which this dialogue was released, I experienced finishing my own "multiple measures" assessment that I had worked on for months prior- my National Board Certification Renewal Portfolio that was due at the end of April. (National Board Certified Teachers have to recertify every ten years.)


In this box is a video of my teaching, student work samples, and my analysis of my continuing work with students and teachers. I've identified areas of success, but more importantly, I've highlighted areas that I will focus on to continue my professional growth.

This is one version of multiple measures in real world form.

So here's our challenge. What will it take to offer an alternative system of accountability beyond test scores? What if teachers had to create something similar that had their student portfolios, classroom videos, and other documentation? What would states and districts have to do?

Here are some of our challenges:

  1. Establish evaluation criteria and expectations. What exactly will teachers have to prove in their evaluation of multiple measurements?
  2. Establish fair and equitable portfolio guidelines for student work, videos, colleague or parent feedback, and other documentation, etc. For example, should videos of classroom teaching be edited or unedited? After all, we have to be fair for all teachers. Just because I know how to add a dramatic musical track to a video doesn't mean that I should be allowed to have an orchestral background playing while students react to my teaching.
  3. Establish a fair and impartial scoring procedure and system. Who will evaluate these multiple measures? How will the evaluators be trained so that the evaluations are reliable and fair? How will feedback be given? Will there be a grievance process? What will it take for this process to be strong enough to be defensible in the court system?
  4. Establish Timelines: How will these multiple measures be submitted? In increments during the year, or all at once like my NBPTS renewal portfolio?
  5. Establish a feedback loop: So what will feedback look like? If the purpose of evaluation is professional development, then we will need a structure for dialogue between the teacher and "evaluators" to occur.

These are just some of the challenges that will need to be sorted out. We haven't even examined costs, expertise, and resources needed to make this work. In my last post, I believe that we can learn a lot from National Board's experiences with their portfolio evaluation system, which has been around for over 16 years. We don't have to start from scratch.

If educators do not like using test scores as the sole measure of teacher effectiveness, and if we want something better, then these discussions on using multiple measures will need to develop into something practical.

Or, we face the alternatives that test scores may have a prominent role in evaluation, or worse, we keep our current broken system of evaluations that no one is satisfied with.

So, are we ready for the hard work?

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