Friday, March 14, 2014

A Call for Standardizing Teacher Evaluations In Illinois

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), in compliance with recently passed legislation in the statehouse in Springfield,  is now in process of implementing the Successor Teacher Evaluation Process (STEP) to include a category related to student growth in order to measure the teacher's effectiveness. Informal and Formal Evaluations are a key component in the contract process for teacher retention or dismissal. This is especially cogent now that most districts have circumvented the seniority system under tenure (protected under in-place collective bargaining agreements) by cleverly moving the hiring/firing process to the local building principal.

Coupled with the initiative is the upcoming implementation of the new Common Core Standards and discarding of the ISAT in favor of PARCC for standardized testing.

Teachers are state licensed and regulated by ISBE based upon academic credentials, work experience and on-going education to maintain a particular level of standards and compliance.

As an illustration, here is contract language from Deerfield District 109 "For the 2013-2014 school year, an Evaluation Plan Committee, which shall be composed of an equal number of Board and Association representatives, shall develop a Successor Teacher Evaluation Plan (STEP) to be used to evaluate all teachers. The STEP shall conform to the State’s statutory mandates for teacher evaluation plans including the student growth component."

Our on-going investigation of improprieties in Teacher evaluations has yielded an interesting trend in this subjective process. 

We have received reports that the evaluation itself (as presently structured) is elementally flawed and skewed. Again, using Deerfield Dist. 109 as an example, the timeline and process are clearly defined.

"The building principal or appropriate supervisor shall acquaint each teacher under his/her supervision with formal, written evaluation procedures, instruments which will be used, and the name of the administrator and/or individual who will be responsible for the evaluation of a teacher’s performance. This shall be accomplished within four (4) weeks of the beginning of the school year or four (4) weeks from the date on which employment actually begins if such is later.

Notification shall be given to the teacher if the assigned evaluator is changed, is unavailable, or an additional evaluator is to be used. A full-time non-tenured teacher or a first through fourth year part-time non-tenured teacher will receive an evaluation at least in accordance with the schedule listed below:

Year 1 2 – Formatives 1 – Summative

Year 2 2 – Formatives 1 – Summative

Year 3 1 – Formatives 1 – Summative

Year 4 1 – Formatives 1 – Summative
The Administration exercises the management right to determine how many additional formative observations may be required for full-time non-tenured teachers and first through   
fourth year part-time teachers. A teacher may, if desired, request one (1) additional formative
observation in Years 1 and 2, and up to two (2) additional formative observations in Years 3 and 4.

Tenured teachers and fifth year or more part-time teachers will receive an evaluation once every two (2) years with a minimum of one (1) formal observation. If a need is seen for more frequent formal observations and/or an additional evaluation by the evaluator, the teacher shall be notified and given the reason for such more frequent formal observations and/or additional evaluation. The teacher may also request more observations if desired. Information resulting from formal observations, informal observations, and data will be used in completing the teacher’s evaluation report. If there are issues that occur or develop during the off year in the evaluation cycle, those issues should be addressed within that off year. However, any issue that is addressed in an off year per the above can appear in an evaluation year.

A professional development plan shall be implemented for any teacher who receives a rating of Needs Improvement. A teacher shall be evaluated each year until the teacher receives a rating of Excellent or Proficient at which time the teacher shall return to an evaluation cycle of once every two (2) years."

We have found that a number of administrators lack similar classroom experience to the teachers being evaluated. For example, there is an Assistant Principal in Deerfield District 109 who served only 3 years as a classroom gym teacher before leveraging the Type 75 required to be an administrator. Being evaluated by a novice administrator is certainly unfair and insulting to seasoned teachers who serve every day in the classroom engaging in direct instruction to students.

In for a penny, in for a pound!

Here is our recommendation. To be consistent, ISBE sets the frame for student standardized testing and the framework for teacher evaluations but has not implemented an independent oversight of this process. A subjective evaluation opens the door to retaliation and personal feelings toward a teacher by an administrator clouding the process.

In the interest of fairness and objectivity, we call upon ISBE to provide independent evaluation of teachers for statewide measure of their effectiveness and compliance with the mandate and the removal of the evaluation process from the local school districts. This policy will also insure uniformity of the evaluation process, just like the standardized testing of students is interpreted across all school districts.

We just received a response from a seasoned Chicago Public School Teacher with 35 year's experience who related her latest evaluation. Under 5 previous principals she received no evaluation lower than excellent. Her current evaluation conducted by an Assistant Principal with "fifteen minutes experience" only rated her at "Proficient" and lied about the dates and times that he observed her in the classroom. She finds this to be insulting and inaccurate. She takes pride in her work and feels that this is personal. Any dispute that she makes with this evaluation will, unfortunately, turn into a "he said, she said" as she has no written evidence that substantiates her claim of prejudice and deliberate downgrading.
This is certainly a breach of trust and abuse of the evaluation process.


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