By Dina Martin
Yvonne Tran wants constructive criticism on her teaching, but hasn’t had a thorough evaluation in four years — despite her contract requiring one every two years.
“I haven’t been given feedback, guidance or mentoring,” Tran says. “It’s easy to point the finger at teachers, but it’s difficult to become a better teacher if there isn’t follow-through by administrators.”
Tran is part of CTA’s Teacher Evaluation Workgroup, a 40-member committee of classroom teachers and staff who spent the past year researching best practices to create a leading-edge evaluation system that will raise the quality of teaching in California.
The workgroup drew up a set of “Teacher Development and Evaluation Principles” that were adopted by CTA’s State Council of Education at its June meeting. The four-page document succinctly and eloquently lays forth the principles on which future guidelines for teacher evaluation will be generated.
The introduction to the principles states that teachers “want a system that provides meaningful feedback, improves their practice, allows them to grow in the profession and ultimately enhances student learning. For this reason, it is important that the California Teachers Association be at the forefront of current teacher evaluation reforms. We have the opportunity to lead discussions and build a better system to serve teachers, students and the community.”
With evaluation becoming even more of a hot-button education reform issue, the response by teachers couldn’t be timelier. External pressure has been increasing to use high-stakes testing as a primary tool in evaluation and to remove “underperforming” teachers from the classroom. But teachers maintain that using test scores for that purpose is a simplistic, flawed and meaningless tool that has little to do with evaluating teacher effectiveness and only serves to narrow the curriculum and to create an unhealthy school environment.
Teachers acknowledge that developing a fair and thorough evaluation system isn’t easy. It requires time on the part of administrators and resources to provide professional development to teachers. Yet having 50 percent of teachers leave the profession during their first five years as they do now is also a major waste of time and expense.
“A lot of teachers are just sinking because they are left on their own and are not supported,” says Jesse Aguilar, an art teacher at East Bakersfield High School and a member of the Kern High School Teachers Association. “When you are a new teacher, there’s going to be a lot you don’t know. A good evaluation system will help teachers become better at each stage as they grow in their profession.”
Since California has so many different and individual school districts, CTA maintains, it is imperative that any evaluation system be collectively bargained at the local level to ensure that local conditions are considered.
There are all sorts of measures that can be used in teacher evaluation, including student portfolios that show evidence of growth, learning goals developed by the teacher or principal, continued professional development, subject matter assessments, and formative and summative student assessments.
Once these measures are determined at a local level, evaluations should help a person become a better teacher. If a teacher really is lacking, a comprehensive and fair evaluation can also be used to guide them out of the profession.
With the adoption of the Teacher Development and Evaluation Principles, the next task of the workgroup will be to move forward and develop an evaluation framework to assist local chapters in shaping and bargaining a more supportive and equitable evaluation system.