Summer 2011 Issue
June 27, 2011

Teacher evaluation model breaking new ground

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

Time, training and teacher support proved to be the most essential elements of a new evaluation system piloted this year by five labor-management school district teams involved in NYSUT's Innovation Initiative.

Participants from Albany, Plattsburgh, Hempstead, North Syracuse and Marlboro all reported favorable results with a progressive new evaluation system model that was built by teams of teachers, principals and administrators, with help from national researchers.

NYSUT's rubric, modeled after the well-known Charlotte Danielson model and other nationally recognized teaching standards, embeds the seven teaching standards approved by the Regents earlier this year. It also addresses the state's four new ratings: highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective.

Pilot locals field-tested the model on a limited basis this spring with teachers who volunteered to try it out.

Marlboro Elementary Principal Scott Brown said the evidence-based evaluation rubric was time-consuming, but more centered on what students were learning, how they were interacting, and the classroom as a whole. He said the new process, which includes pre- and post-observation conferences, led to more meaningful dialogue between teachers and evaluators.

Participants found the observation and professional learning plan tools easy to use and understand.

The next phase will be scaling up the model so it covers teachers in all grade levels and subject areas in the pilot districts, said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira.

"Our work will shape and inform the next generation of teacher evaluation," Neira said. "What makes this so different is that we're taking the time to do it right, with field-testing, constant re-evaluation and tweaking. And most importantly, it's being led by practitioners who do the work every day."

After field-testing feedback and work with national researchers, the NYSUT Teacher Practice rubric was improved to eliminate some of the redundancies, make the process less time-consuming and to encourage better evidence collection. In early August, NYSUT will hold a week-long boot-camp training for evaluators — both peers and administrators — from the five model sites, plus Poughkeepsie.

Neira said the field test of the model clearly underscored the importance of providing quality professional development for all stakeholders, including the teachers who are the subject of the new evaluations and those who will serve as evaluators.

Peer review is also a key ingredient for many of the pilot districts. Plattsburgh is implementing a Peer Assistance and Review program with master teachers designated as "consulting teachers" to provide assistance as part of their evaluation system.

"The district and the teachers want to create a completely different atmosphere from what has traditionally occurred in education, where each teacher works alone in a classroom," said Plattsburgh TA President Rod Sherman. "A comparison to PAR would be the field of medicine, where doctors are constantly watching each other, learning from and critiquing each other."

NYSUT has submitted its Innovation Initiative teacher practice rubric to the State Education Department for approval as one of several options available to all school districts to meet new Annual Professional Performance Review regulations starting this fall. NYSUT also hopes to offer training through its Education & Learning Trust professional development network statewide, in partnership with teacher centers.

"We've learned that collaboration is key to moving this complex work forward," Neira said. "The underlying premise for the Innovation Initiative work is to create a system that is not a 'gotcha,' but one that can provide ongoing growth and improve student learning."