Jonathan Cetel is the founding executive director of PennCAN. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Meet Jennifer Wright, a high school English teacher in Pittsburgh who says her city’s pilot teacher evaluation system has helped her become a more effective teacher.

Unlike Jennifer, most Pennsylvania teachers only get a quick observation and either a “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” check mark. We’re working to enact HB 1980, a law that would give teachers like Jennifer evaluations they can actually use to improve. Click here to help us.

The evaluations I receive under Pittsburgh’s system help me identify specific areas where I can improve. I can then seek advice and strategies from fellow teachers who are especially strong in those areas. The system promotes collaboration among my colleagues and our administrators–everyone working together to build a stronger team of educators for our kids.

–Jennifer Wright, Pittsburgh high school English teacher


Great teachers like Jennifer matter—a lot. Research shows that students assigned to great teachers can learn about three times more in one year than those assigned to the least effective teachers, regardless of socioeconomic background. But our current evaluation system–which hasn’t changed in more than 40 years—doesn’t tell us who our great teachers are or where they teach. In the 2010-2011 school year alone, 99.5 percent of teachers received the highest rating.

Teachers like Jennifer deserve more than a checkmark. Tell lawmakers to enact HB 1980 before the legislative session ends in order to tie 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to students’ academic progress and provide multiple ratings instead of a binary “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

The new system would build off of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s successful pilot program, the Teacher Effectiveness Project, which is currently being implemented in 122 districts serving 320,00 students, or nearly 20 percent of the Commonwealth’s students. Pennsylvania thus already has the infrastructure in place to enact a meaningful teacher evaluation system, and thanks to the $41 million Race to the Top grant, we have a lot of the funding for it, too. The only thing the state needs now is for your legislators to hear from you. Please take action now.

Together we’ll tell Pennsylvania’s leaders that teachers like Jennifer and the students they teach are too important to go ignored for yet another year.


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