Opening Statement: Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN)
Summary: Over the next few months the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education will renew its efforts to address challenges facing K-12 schools. No Child Left Behind's Highly Qualified Teacher provisions forced schools to value and educator's credential over his or her ability to effectively teach children. A teacher's excellence can't be measured by degrees alone. Tennessee is one of the first states to implement a comprehensive student-outcomes based evaluation system using teacher observations and personal conferences with an emphasis on student achievement data. The system addresses tenure policies and last-in first-out policies to ensure that all teachers get the support they need to succeed. As part of ESEA reform efforts he hopes 113th Congress will consider such innovation.
Representatives present: Todd Rokita, R-Indiana (Chairman); John Kline,R- Minnesota; Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina; David P. Roe, R-Tennessee; Glenn Thompson, R-Pennsylvania; Carolyn McCarthy, D-New York (Ranking Member); Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-Virginia; Susan A. Davis, D-California; Jared Polis, D-Colorado; Gregorio Sablan, D-Northern Mariana Islands
Dr. Steve Cantrell
Chief Research Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Co-Director of the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project
Summary: MET looked at data on teaching practice, student assessments, classroom observation protocols, teachers' ability to increase student's conceptual understanding and they surveyed students to assess how they experience instruction. Preliminary MET findings demonstrated that three measures—student assessments, classroom observations, and student surveys—helped predict whether teachers would raise the performance of future groups of students. The combination of these measures does a far better job predicting which teachers will succeed in raising student performance than master's degrees and years of teaching experience. Findings provided nine principles that fall into three categories: Measure Effective Teaching, Ensure High Quality Data, and Invest in Improvement. The data led us to conclude that most teachers are average, but for different reasons. This means that school systems need to share the responsibility to improve teaching by providing targeted, high quality support. Better evaluation and feedback systems are essential to improving teaching and learning. If done well, in ways that teachers can trust, these systems will enable better teacher supports which, in turn, will lead to better student performance.
MET referenced reports:
Ensuring Fair and Reliable Measures of Effective Teaching: Culminating Findings
Feedback for Better Teaching: Nine Principles for Using Measures of Effective Teaching
Dr. James P. McIntyre, Jr.
Superintendent of the Knox County Schools, Tennessee
Summary: Over the past five years, Tennessee has implemented education reform and improvement including higher academic standards, support for performance-based pay, fundamentally restructured teacher tenure, and the introduction of an interest-based labor dialogue called “collaborative conferencing.” The new teacher performance evaluation system (Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model or TEAM) requires a performance evaluation of every teacher, every year; and at least 50% of that evaluation must be based on student academic outcomes. The evaluation is based on multiple measures of teacher effectiveness, incorporating elements of student academic results, multiple observations of classroom practice, and indicators of teacher professionalism. This includes a pilot program of student feedback. Teachers are not eligible for tenure until after five years of service, allowing them more time to develop. Lead teachers are compensated to act as mentors. Among the many successes, from 2011-2012, the percentage of teachers scoring in the highest category of teacher value-added performance, those making the greatest impact on student learning, increased from 27% to 36%.
Reference: Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model or TEAM
Dr. Rodney Watson
Chief Human Resources Officer for the Houston Independent School District
Summary: Houston School District has learned that better teacher evaluations are not an end goal. They are one part of a solution to the most critical challenge schools face today: how to find and keep teachers who can prepare students for success in today’s ultra-competitive economy. Recruiting and selecting teachers earlier is a priority because research shows that teachers who are hired earlier have high student achievement results in the classroom. Recruitment season starts in October to campuses likely to yield high performing teachers. They offer potential teaching candidates early contracts so they can hire teachers in the winter and spring instead of late in the summer. As part of the Effective Teachers Initiative, Houston is rethinking compensation and career pathways to retain and reward the best teachers. Using data from their evaluation system, they identify best teachers and use a multi-pronged approach to retain them. This past year, Houston School District engaged teachers and principals from around the district to develop teacher leader roles and a career pathway framework that is currently piloted in 23 schools. All teachers have the opportunity to work with one of 130 Teacher Development Specialists, master teachers in specific subject areas whose only job it is to offer advice and connect teachers with resources that can help them improve. This is paid out of existing funds. Houston School District is offering signing bonuses of up to $5000.00 in the hardest-to-staff subject areas and schools. They found that teachers who reported that their appraiser consistently applied the expectations articulated in the rubric and who received useful feedback about their practice from their appraiser were 10 times more likely to report that the evaluation system was “fair” and believed their rating to be an accurate reflection of their performance. Likewise, teachers who received feedback about their performance from their Teacher Development Specialist more frequently during the year were more satisfied with the evaluation process as a whole.
Mr. Emanuel Harper
French teacher at Herron High School, Indianapolis, Indiana; adjunct faculty member for Best Practices in World Language for Marian University’s Master of Arts in Teaching program
Summary: Remedies to ending the achievement gap include implementing stronger evaluative tools for teachers, appropriately weighing student performance and student voice, and giving more local flexibility. Indiana has a newly implemented Senate Act 1 which strengthens teacher evaluations. Teachers are continually assessed on effectiveness, maintaining a constant loop of evaluation, critical feedback, and actionable next steps. In the evaluative process, non-tested subjects (such as French) undergo the same amount of scrutiny as tested subjects with curriculum and assessments analyzed for their fidelity to AP exams. Teachers who continually meet the high instructional bar are rewarded with leadership opportunities and salary increases. Teachers who do not are removed from the classroom. Recruiting and retaining top talent translates to educating and preparing all students. Local flexibility in staffing and in-house Friday student data analysis generates cross-curricular interventions for students. This time together is an eagerly anticipated opportunity to hone the mission of closing the achievement gap.
Questions from Committee Members
The Committee members stated they are looking for guidance from these practitioners regarding teacher evaluation systems. Some of their questions:
Rep. Thompson (R-PA) asked how teachers view the evaluation systems. Are there better student outcomes? The panelists agreed that overtime, the majority of teachers see the value of evaluation systems for their own teaching. When the teachers see the strong student outcomes, it motivates them to be better teachers. Rep. Thompson asked what the barriers to implementation were. The panelists noted that schools systems need to be thoughtful about implementation; have buy-in; and information and training available.
Rep. Davis (D-CA) asked what the federal role should be in this. Dr. McIntire answered, with agreement from the other panelists, that the federal role should be to set broad parameters and allow flexibility at the local level. Rep. Davis asked how school districts carve out the resources to do this. Dr. McIntyre said that a lot of professional development is teacher led and very powerful. He noted that teacher evaluation is not professional development; professional development is a process of improvement that is a result of the evaluations.
Rep. Roe (R-TN) asked how one differentiates evaluations between teachers who teach kids from troubled backgrounds. Mr. Harper answered that the background of students is taken into consideration and those teachers look for ways to support these students.
Rep. Polis (D-CO) asked what we at the federal level can do to help more districts do what you have done. Dr. McIntyre answer: encourage and support evaluation systems for every teacher every year. The federal government should encourage states to do this.
Rep. Scott (D-VA) asked about better pay to attract better teachers. Panelists said this would be valuable in competing with other industries that attract good teachers away from teaching. Rep. Scott asked what incentive does a teacher have, under these evaluation plans, to teach in a high-need school? Panelist Dr. Cantrell responded that teachers are rewarded for growth and good teachers want to help the kids most in need.
In conclusion, Rep. Rokita (R-IN) asked the panel if teachers should take a professional oath (Panelist Rodney Harper had mentioned this.) The panelists felt this is a good concept.
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