I just met with a team from the Georgia Department of Education about its work on using its Race to the Top monies to develop a teacher and leader evaluation tool that incorporates many moving parts, including two 30-minute principal observations, student performance as measured by standardized test scores where there are such scores, other measures in courses without tests, such as middle school chorus and first grade reading, documentation of strong teaching practices, including student work, planning materials and data analysis, and student surveys.
I am going to write about this at length shortly, but wanted to share one slide from the DOE presentation as I think it is a novel idea — asking students even in kindergarten to review their teachers. Students from kindergarten through 12th grade would be surveyed once a year electronically under the pilot.
While the youngest students would circle one of three faces — the best rating being the smiling face — older students would rate teachers on a 1 to 5 agree/disagree scale. A sample statement that older students would be given: “My teacher has deep knowledge about the subject.” (The slide here shows both survey question types.)
Teresa MacCartney, DOE Race to the Top Director Deputy, said, “I want to stress with the kindergarten to 2nd grade survey that we are pushing the bar, but given that we are piloting this, we thought we could see what we could learn from it.”
“It may or may not fly depending on what we learn,” said Martha Ann Todd of DOE’s Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Division.
I want to emphasize that DOE team said the surveys would be a very small part of the teacher evaluation process, which will begin as a pilot in January in the 26 Race to the Top districts.
In a major change, the new evaluations will only be piloted among 10 percent of the teachers in those districts or 4,700 teachers, chosen at random. The task of piloting the new tool for all 47,000 teachers in those districts was too daunting.
Also, some districts will pilot the teacher/leader evaluation system in a single school that represents 10 percent of its work force, while others will pilot it in all their schools but only for a handful of teachers who collectively add up to 10 percent.
I was impressed with the efforts of DOE to create a fair tool, and the team includes former Marietta Middle School language arts teacher Kathie Wood, who is a strong voice for the teacher perspective. (When I asked her what she thought about releasing the teacher evaluation “grades” to parents, she said, “I think it would be horrible.” Her DOE colleagues agreed and that is not in the game plan, but I would not rule out the Legislature getting into that issue someday.)
The DOE team is attempting to be respectful of teachers and the profession, and is focused on creating ways to improve teachers rather than run them off. (Although some will be run off.)
If I were a teacher, I would have more confidence that the state’s intentions are good, but I would also have some concerns about the RTTT timetable and whether these evaluation tools will have enough time to evolve before they are unleashed on the state as a whole. (That would take legislation, but I have no doubt that legislation will be forthcoming mandating statewide evaluations that consider student performance.)
Check back later as I am about to interview the new Milken teacher from Georgia. I spent a half day in Shekema Silveri’s class at Mount Zion High School, but now we are going to talk about her approach.
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog