February 2011 Issue
February 09, 2011

Teachers to test-drive evaluation model

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

Call them the brave pioneers who are stepping up to pilot the next generation of teacher evaluation.

"It's time to take the conceptual and design work that your colleagues have worked so hard to build and see how it actually works in the classroom," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira. "It's time to move from paper to practice."

Neira met with about 60 teachers from Albany, Hempstead, Marlboro, North Syracuse and Plattsburgh who will pilot the NYSUT Innovation Initiative's evaluation model this spring.

NYSUT's field-testing work is especially timely, as the Regents and State Education Department are developing details in the upcoming new teacher/principal evaluation system that will be phased in during the coming school year.

Through NYSUT's Innovation Initiative, labor-management teams from the five school districts have been working with national experts to build a more comprehensive system that provides meaningful evaluation, constructive feedback and ongoing professional development and support.

"It will be hard, it will be risky, it will be lots of work — but it will be worth it," Neira said.

Participants got a sneak peek at how the new model will work, including evaluation by trained professionals, input from peers and a new measurement rubric that should better capture the complexity of excellent teaching. The rubric is aligned with the state's first-ever teaching standards approved last month by the Regents. The new evaluation model will include a pre-observation conference to discuss goals and lesson planning, at least two classroom visits, an evidence review and reflections during a final summative conference.

"It's really exciting to be on the ground floor, to see how we can improve the current system," said Zeovadis Tavarez-Norwood, a third-grade bilingual teacher in Albany.

"Kids are changing and we have to change with them."

She said the new model looks like it will bring greater fairness and less bias to the process.

"I especially like the idea of continuous growth — having a consulting teacher," she added. "I go to my peers all the time, but this will make it part of the process."

"A little overwhelmed" is how North Syracuse EA's Lisa Goldberg described herself. "It seems very labor intensive," she said. "Have you estimated how much time this prep work, lesson planning and the rest of the process will take?"

National expert Bernadette Cleland said the process will take longer in the beginning, but over time should go more quickly. "That's what the pilot is about, to check out what's reasonable, doable," Cleland said.

Cleland stressed that much of the lesson planning and evidence collection is already being done by most teachers. "This is not about creating new work. It's about formalizing what you already do every day."