Thinking about teacher evaluation can be daunting, especially as a student teacher trying to imagine the different categories upon which I will soon be judged. How can I possibly become a proficient teacher in just a year? Isn’t my first year review bound to be terrible and does that mean I’m down and out for the count?
As I look over the different evaluation systems used for teachers, I’m floored by the vast number of possible evaluation methods and their many different applications to judging a first year teacher, let alone veteran teachers. I’ll focus specifically on the Tennessee Valued-Added Assessment system and the more relaxed evaluation system used by Aurora Public schools in Colorado. Both state legislatures have mandated teacher evaluation, but the results are very different.
In Tennessee, the Value-Added system depends on comparing the progress of students to the average of the progress of students of similar achievement level. To operate fairly this system requires knowledge of a student’s previous achievement level before entering a class. This is good, in that it is putting the student in a specific category of knowledge before the teacher begins instruction, so a teacher will not be penalized by the initial knowledge base of a student. This is bad because students move around and change states. There is no guarantee that data will be available for every student in the classroom. Indeed, I felt that was the one clear flaw in the value-added system. Regardless, the teacher is then evaluated by if their class maintains the same growth rate, falls behind or is brought ahead.
The system in place in Aurora Public Schools (APS) is somewhat different and much less regimented. 50% of the teacher evaluation is based on student growth, but this growth is, as of yet, not taken from standardized test results. Indeed, Colorado has recently changed to the PARCC tests and the legislature decided that test results from the inaugural year of testing could not be used in teacher evaluations. At present the APS teacher evaluation is rooted in whether or not a teacher achieves a learning objective set at the beginning of the year by the teacher. This falls into the student growth objectives type of evaluation and is good for evaluating a single teacher, but is not standardized enough to compare teachers.
When I look toward teaching, especially in my first few years, I want to be evaluated using a metric that give me an opportunity to grow and is not merely based on the achievements of my students. APS has three formal observations per year for probationary teachers (all first year teachers would seem to fall in this category) and I look toward these observations as a source for growth, not an evaluation to fear. The more ways I can be evaluated that delve into how I teach and how I can improve rather than just student performance on tests, the better. Teachers need to be constantly evolving and bettering their craft. An evaluation system that encourages growth, but maintains accountability such as student growth objectives, measures of student engagement and a light dose of testing-based evaluation sounds just my speed.
Teacher Evaluation: A Resource Guide for National Education Association Leader and Staff. Accessed from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzYfzjQoASL_eGdtNFdsbXRIRDQ/view
Tennessee Valued-Added Assessment System. Accessed from: http://tn.gov/education/topic/tvaas
Guidelines for the Evaluation of Teachers in the Aurora Public Schools. Accessed from http://aurorak12.org/hr/HRForms/eval_guidelines.pdf