By Eric Heins, CTA Vice President
CTA member Laura Williams with student Oscar Sanchez
No one knows better what good teaching is than a teacher. CTA’s Teacher Evaluation Framework is the first step for us, as professionals, to take back our profession.
The framework refocuses evaluation on what it should be — improving our instructional practice, thereby improving student achievement. That’s what it’s all about.
I’m a music teacher. When my principal evaluated me, there were only three criteria she was looking for: Are the kids engaged? (Yes, they were, because they were singing.) Are they all happy? Did I send anyone to the office as a discipline problem? If those were taken care of, I was an excellent, effective teacher. I could have been singing with them all day long and that would have been fine with her, because she had no musical background.
That didn’t help me as a teacher. What I wanted her to do was to help me become a better music teacher. CTA’s evaluation framework lays out a way for that to happen. Here’s how.
First, it separates out the summative, high-stakes decision-making around our job, meaning the “Will I get permanent status? What does the boss think?” type of decisions.
Then we focus on the formative side of evaluation: improving instruction. I can invite colleagues into my room to observe me. I can meet with them regularly and share things like, “This lesson didn’t work very well, how do you suggest I do it differently? What are my strengths?” I can have those kinds of discussions with people who know what I’m talking about — who know about my subject area, my expertise.
Our current evaluation system doesn’t separate out the formative and summative sides. Too often it’s the music teachers and special education teachers, the counselors and the librarians, who are left out of meaningful evaluations. So whatever you’re doing professionally as an educator, this allows you to set up a framework to get better at what you do.
Leading the way locally
Formative evaluation is about growing in the profession with like professionals. Research on CTA’s Quality Education Investment Act program (QEIA) shows how important collaboration is when it comes to improving instruction and improving student achievement.
Now, what works in the Central Valley may not work in the Bay Area. So the details of what this looks like must be locally bargained, as they were in the past. Where CTA fits in is to talk about the supports teachers should have. Perhaps it’s through mentoring or a peer program. But again, what that actually looks like will be locally bargained. Because who knows my job better than someone else who does it? It certainly is not a legislator in Sacramento. Everyone’s been through fourth grade, but that doesn’t mean they know how to teach it.
The evaluation framework grew out of CTA’s work on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act several years ago, because the federal government was starting to get involved in teacher evaluation. When legislators want to do something in education right, they come to us. We were prepared.
CTA committees involving academic freedom, professional rights and responsibilities, assessment and testing, special education, and negotiations, plus local presidents, support staff and higher education members — together we came to a consensus on evaluation and created 17 principles of a quality evaluation system. The CTA Teacher Evaluation Framework, which was unanimously approved by State Council, was built on those 17 principles.
LaCretia is more than a test score
There are more than 400,000 teachers in California, and before we label someone we have to look at the responsibility of the system.
If I’m a kindergarten teacher and I have 35 kids in my classroom, I’m alone all day long and all they hand me is a scripted curriculum and no support — that won’t work. Teaching is so much more complex than that.
We’re not working on machines. There so many factors that impact how a student learns, and the teacher is the most important. But educational leaders play an important role in how they provide resources, as do parents in making sure students have the support, nourishment and sleep they need.
My student, LaCretia, came to me the morning after her family had been evicted. She told me about the motel maid who brought her breakfast. The next day she was taken from my classroom by child services. A few weeks later a social worker delivered a paper Thanksgiving turkey because LaCretia insisted her assignment be turned in.
LaCretia is one of my heroes. Here’s a girl who was evicted, taken from her family because of drug abuse — but she wanted to turn in her assignment. She’s the reason I fight as hard as I do for students — and why we talk about what a good teacher is, about supports for improving instruction.
If you measure my effectiveness on her test scores, we both might fail. And that’s just not right.
CTA Vice President Eric Heins chaired the CTA Teacher Evaluation Framework Committee.
Related Tags: Volume 17 Issue 1, Make A Difference, Inside Educator, Educator, Advocacy, ESEA-NCLB, Evaluation, Reform, QEIA, State Council, Legislation, Professional Development,