Teacher evaluation, a cornerstone of many state’s winning Race to the Top applications (including Rhode Island’s) and a key tool used by the reform community to raise student achievement has received a lot of attention lately. Locally and across the country, states are grappling with the expected and unexpected challenges of overhauling their teacher evaluation programs and regulations. Washington, DC, one of the leaders in teacher eval implementation with its IMPACT system, was the focus of a recent study by Stanford’s Tom Dee and UVA’s Jim Wyckoff. Rick Hess summarizes the study in his regular “Straight Up” column at Ed Week:
(Dee and Wyckoff) find that the IMPACT system (launched during Michelle Rhee’s tenure as chancellor) appears to boost teacher effectiveness and also makes it more likely that low-performing teachers will depart….The study, published as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, notes that IMPACT appears to aid students both by “avoiding the career-long retention of the lowest-performing teachers and through broad increases in teacher performance.
IMPACT relies on a number of tools to evaluate its educators, placing primary focus on classroom observations, then on student achievement and principal assessments. It also offers bonuses to its highest performing teachers, about 16% of the total teaching corps in DCPS.
The RI Department of Education also released a report recently, summarizing the data and first year implementation results of our own educator evaluation system. The report highlighs teacher and administrator survey data regarding sentiment about the eval system and discussed challenges that need to be addressed in upcoming years. Close to 95% of teachers throughout RI were rated effective or highly effective but 66% of administrators reported they gave grades that they felt were “warranted.” The lack of differentiation between evaluation ratings is troubling, especially since we have single digit proficiency levels in some schools across the state. There are some bright spots in the report, including the fact that teachers are beginning to feel more comfortable with the Student Learning Objective process, the only current measure of student performance in the eval tool.
We will continue to monitor the progress of educator evaluation in the Ocean State and around the country—supporting excellent teachers in our classrooms is vital to improving our public schools!