By CTA President Dean E. Vogel
In my personal vision of how education should work in California, schools would be adequately funded, have small class sizes, offer a comprehensive curriculum that includes art, music and physical education, incorporate counseling and support services, and prepare our students to be citizens of the future.
But even before all that, schools would have a dedicated, highly qualified professional in every classroom who knows how to reach and teach the broad spectrum of students who are there. Our teaching staffs would be balanced by new teachers who can share their enthusiasm and veteran teachers who can share their experience. They would have time to plan and work collaboratively, and they would be given opportunities for continued professional development. They would learn what works and what doesn’t work with their students.
And teachers would know whether they’ve done a good job reaching their students because they have been observed and evaluated by their colleagues and administrators who provide feedback that enables them to change and improve their teaching.
Those of us in the profession know there’s a huge learning curve to becoming a good teacher and we need all the help we can get along the way. We want and need to be evaluated. I don’t think I’ve met a person in the profession who did not want to know how they were doing and how they could improve.
As a new teacher, I had two very different experiences with evaluation. One was fraught with tension and anxiety, with the only goal being to satisfy my principal. The other was a collegial effort, working with my principal to identify my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher and develop a process for building better professional practice and continually improving my skills. Guess which one was more helpful?
I hear from many teachers that their evaluation amounted to a five-minute drop-in by an administrator, if they received that. Unfortunately, that’s become the rule, rather than the exception. Sadder yet, student test scores are being used as criteria in evaluating teaching ability. It’s not fair, it’s not accurate, and it’s the lazy way out.
That’s why I am so pleased to report that after more than two years of work, CTA has set forth a visionary evaluation framework for California teachers and school districts — visionary because it makes us part of the process, as we should be.
The CTA Teacher Evaluation Workgroup forged the 36-page plan after hearing from CTA members and numerous experts, such as Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford, and looking at assessment systems used across the country. The framework rejects using “value-added” measures based on student test scores in teacher evaluations. Research shows that this controversial method is highly unstable. These measurements are affected by the differences in the individual students assigned to a teacher, and the data does not accurately reflect the many influences on student progress over time.
Instead, the CTA guidelines stress formative assessments that focus on the process of increasing knowledge and improving professional practice. They provide teachers with feedback on how to improve their practice to promote student learning, and guide what types of professional development opportunities will enhance their practice.
You can find the framework and guiding principles online at www.cta.org/evaluationframework.
The framework will allow us to have real input as teacher evaluation legislation is developed, and it will enable our members to be proactive in leading our profession. It is time that teachers define what is important in strengthening the teaching practice, and not let it be defined by politicians.