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Teacher Evaluation: What the Hope Street Group Has Learned That Works

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Following is a guest post from Daniel Cruce. Dan is Vice President, Education at Hope Street Group - www.hopestreetgroup.org . Cruce joined Hope Street Group from the Delaware Department of Education, where he was Deputy Secretary and Chief of Staff. Immediately prior, Cruce was Assistant Superintendent/Chief of Staff for the state's largest school district, Christina.

Many professionals outside of the public education system look at the problems within and think "why can't they just figure it out" or "if I were in charge, I would just fix it". Without delving into the fallacies of those overly-simplistic opinions, it is fair to say that bureaucracies, red-tape and a checkered reform history all certainly create obstacles to common sense solutions. Nowhere is this more true than in teacher evaluation reform. Everyone wants a fair and accurate system, but achieving that goal has been a struggle. Teachers say the system must reflect their unique student populations, and policymakers say hard data must inform decisions. In fact, both needs can be satisfied, but only if diversified teacher voices sit side-by-side with student-centered policy makers.

Over the last five years, Hope Street Group, a fiercely bipartisan non-profit, has been deeply involved in teacher evaluation reform on the national and state level. So that states can learn from each other, we have developed a comprehensive Teacher Evaluation Playbook, a free, online resource that provides policymakers' and educators' advice, best practices and lessons learned on the teacher evaluation development process. What we've learned through our work and extensive interviews with teachers, policymakers, elected officials, union representatives, and others is that any effective teacher evaluation reform plan must include five key tenets.

First, give teachers a seat at the table and make them partners in reform. Education reform must be done with teachers, not to teachers. When teachers have ownership of the program, a better evaluation system results, and trust between all the players is built.

Second, clearly and consistently communicate with key audiences throughout the reform process. Those leaders developing the evaluation program must communicate with each other and with those in the classroom constantly and consistently. To be effective, all teachers and stakeholders need to feel comfortable with the evaluation reform and understand the new program and how they will be affected.

Third, work toward the ultimate goal of professional growth and educator improvement. The main objective of an evaluation program should be to provide constructive feedback and professional development opportunities, based on the needs of individual teachers, to help improve classroom instruction to increase student achievement. The intent must be aligned and mutual for all parties.

Fourth, include non-tested grades and subjects (NTGS) in assessments. Fair assessment of an art teacher, for instance, cannot be based on school-wide student scores. Designing assessments across all grades and subjects is proving difficult for states - taking more time and more resources than originally expected. The NTGS areas give policymakers and educators the opportunity to collaborate to build the evaluation system together - ultimately building trust between stakeholders.

Finally, innovate and constantly improve the evaluation system. States should have a plan in place for permanent interaction with educators to collect the feedback necessary for continuous improvement of the teacher evaluation system.

The Teacher Evaluation Playbook showcases the common challenges most states face and provides a roadmap of best practices for reaching consensus and approval. It is a rich guide for states, districts and charters engaging in evaluation reform, providing practical solutions, user-informed checklists, comprehensive step guides, peer-video vignettes and stakeholder-specific role supports that can immediately add capacity to a state, district or charter's current evaluation reform work--regardless of their stage in the process.

Educators deserve an educator evaluation system that ultimately drives positive results for children. Practical collaboration must become the standard in all teacher evaluation reform if it is to be sustainable.

Hope Street Group is a national, nonpartisan 501(c) 3 working directly with educators and policy makers across multiple states on incentives-focused education reforms. Specifically, Hope Street Group is playing an ongoing role in the development of educator evaluations. The non-profit partners with state stakeholders to gather and synthesize feedback from the front lines via teacher voice opportunities Hope Street Group's suite of services help states create and implement effective evaluation systems that teachers respect, which in turn helps spread the use of this valuable tool for improving classroom outcomes and elevating the teaching profession.

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