The six Innovation Initiative school district teams that have pioneered NYSUT's Teacher Practice Rubric are moving forward with, perhaps, the toughest phase of the ground-breaking project: how to link professional support with teacher evaluation.
"This can't just be about scoring and rating teachers," said national educational consultant Albert "Duffy" Miller. "We can score (educators) out of a job - but if that's all it's about, it won't improve student learning or teacher practice. We need to find ways to help people get better. That's the elephant in the room."
The labor-management teams were in Albany this week to continue work on the Teacher Evaluation and Development (TED) system and identify strategies to build supports that will improve teacher effectiveness. Using case studies for both struggling and highly effective teachers, participants from Plattsburgh, North Syracuse, Poughkeepsie, Albany, Marlboro and Hempstead discussed ways to provide differentiated support for everyone from brand-new teachers to highly accomplished veterans.
"The work we're doing here is really unique," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira. "From the beginning, we've taken the research, the hypothesis, then we put the reality in it ... Our work is to take a deep look based on reality and make it practitioner-friendly."
For example, Neira said there's much research on peer coaching that "looks easy in print," but can be challenging to put into practice. Similarly, she said, "We all know collaboration is the key to success, but we operate in a system where we're not given the time to work together. It's been difficult to create space that allows us to do our work."
More than 200 school districts statewide are using NYSUT's Teacher Practice Rubric this year. So far, NYSUT has received a lot of positive feedback about the rubric, but more work remains to be done to improve evidence collection, teacher involvement and broader communication. About one-third of the participating districts sent representatives to regional meetings with NYSUT project leaders this spring to offer feedback. In addition, NYSUT will be conducting a formal survey of participating districts and revising the rubric, as needed.
Innovation teams piloting the use of student surveys reported out on the benefits and limitations of student feedback. Educators recommended a number of ways to improve and revise the survey instrument, such as creating three different levels of surveys for elementary, middle school and high school students. Educators also suggested there be room for narrative comments. The next step will be conducting cognitive interviews with students in the fall, as part of the student survey pilot.