Teacher Evaluation – A Time Line, Useful but with Holes

Wall Street Journal article on Teacher Evaluation provides a good timeline, EXCEPT it is missing the longtime, widely accepted National Board for Professional Teaching Standards comprehensive, reflective teacher certification process. This process has been accepted by teachers, teacher unions, states, districts and schools as deep professional development as well as a credible certification process for accomplished teachers. Now this widely respected program is also in use with teachers across the span of their careers, as a whole school transformation model.

Too bad this article missed a review of the National Board process and results!

National Board: History and Mission of 25 year Advanced Teacher Certification Process

Teaching Moments

1982 Bill Sanders, a professor at the University of Tennessee, begins building value-added models to measure teachers’ impact on student achievement. By 1992, Tennessee education officials adopt a refined version of the model to evaluate the state’s schools.

2002 President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law goes into effect, providing data that can be used to evaluate students’ growth.

2005 The University of Wisconsin’s Value-Added Research Center, or VARC, is formed by Rob Meyer.

2006 The federal Teacher Incentive Fund begins issuing grants to school systems and states to develop programs to award teachers who raise test scores.

2008 The Houston Independent School District begins issuing bonuses to teachers with high value-added rankings.

2009-2010 New York City starts including value-added data in decisions about whether to grant tenure to teachers.

2010 The $4.35 billion Race to the Top grants create incentives for states to adopt new education policies, including linking test scores to teacher evaluations.

Summer 2010 The Washington, D.C., school district uses value-added data to evaluate and fire


Questions to Ask Ourselves as We Lead Youth at Home and at School

I’ve adapted the questions below for parents from Sacramento Teacher Larry Ferlazzo’s  “Five Questions for Parents to Ask Ourselves” aimed at classroom practice for teachers. (see link below)

1) Does my question bring me closer to my child—or push me away?

2) Does our activity connect with my child’s personal interests and goals?

3) Am I setting things up so my child “does the work” – instead of me?

4) Am I helping my child to develop and use “higher level thinking skills”
(figuring it out rather than memorizing)

5) Am I encouraging cooperative, continuous learning?
(with my questions and support of thinking activities with siblings and friends.

Larry’s good article, which provides much context for these questions can be read at:  http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2011/08/16/ferlazzo_fiveways.html

NEA Convention Issues 13 Item Rebuke to Duncan DOE policies

The NEA acting on behalf of 3.2 million teachers of the NEA accepted several key practices, long resisted: including student test score gains in teacher evaluation and considering teacher evaluations in pay increments. If managed very carefully, the changes enabled by these agreements could transform education positively. The NEA cautions, as it should, that student assessments should be improved and that data from assessments must be used in concert with other factors that more directly and personally guide an accurate evaluation.

In spite of the magnitude of those issues, NEA’s focus remained on other DOE initiatives which they see as threatening education.  The text of the rebuke follows:

The NEA Representative Assembly directs the NEA President to communicate aggressively, forcefully, and immediately to President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that NEA is appalled with Secretary Duncan’s practice of:

  1. Weighing in on local hiring decisions of school and school district personnel.
  2. Supporting local decisions to fire all school staff indiscriminately, such as his comments regarding the planned firings in Central Falls, RI.
  3. Supporting inappropriate use of high-stakes standardized test scores for both student achievement and teacher evaluation, all while acknowledging that the currently available tests are not good.
  4. Failing to recognize the shortcomings of offering to support struggling schools or states, but only in exchange for unsustainable state ‘reform’ policy.
  5. Focusing too heavily on competitive grants that by design leave most students behind—particularly those in poor neighborhoods, rural areas, and struggling schools—instead of foundational formula funding designed to help all the students who need the most support.
  6. Not adequately addressing the unrealistic Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements that brand thriving or improving schools as failures.
  7. Forcing local school districts to choose from a pre-determined menu of school improvement models that are unproven and have been shown to be ineffective and bear little resemblance to the actual needs of the school that is struggling.
  8. Focusing so heavily on charter schools that viable and proven innovative school models (such as magnet schools) have been overlooked, and simultaneously failing to highlight with the same enthusiasm the innovation in our non-charter public schools.
  9. Failing to recognize both the danger inherent in overreliance on a single measurement and the need for multiple indicators when addressing and analyzing student achievement and educators’ evaluations.
  10. Failing to recognize the need for systemic change that helps ALL students and relies on shared responsibility by all stakeholders, rather than competitive grant programs that spur bad, inappropriate, and short-sighted state policy.
  11. Failing to recognize the complexities of school districts that do not have the resources to compete for funding, particularly in rural America, and failing to provide targeted and effective support for those schools and school districts.
  12. Failing to respect and honor the professionalism of educators across this country, including but not limited to holding public education roundtables and meetings without inviting state and local representatives of the teachers, education support professionals, and faculty and staff; promoting programs that lower the standards for entry into the profession; focusing so singularly on teachers in the schools that the other critical staff members and higher education faculty and staff have been overlooked in the plans for improving student learning throughout their educational careers.
  13. Perpetuating the myth that there are proven, top-down prescribed ‘silver bullet’ solutions and models that actually will address the real problems that face public education today, rather than recognizing that what schools need is a visionary Secretary of Education that sets broad goals and tasks states, local schools districts, schools, educators, and communities with meeting those goals.

Further, the NEA Representative Assembly directs the NEA Executive Committee to develop and implement an aggressive action plan in collaboration with state and local leaders that will address the issues above.
Starting November 2011, the NEA President will provide regular updates to the delegates on the progress of this plan throughout the year.

The Education Crisis Rivets Attention in Films

Race to Nowhere shows the desperate situations in several geographically spread areas, and the efforts of parents and others to organize to improve conditions. This film points to the importance in educating the whole child, in involving parents and the community, rather than focusing only on test scores. In pursuit of A’s, American students are driven to suicide, cheating, and drugs. Parents are expected to raise high-achieving children who excel at everything; academics, sports and the arts-plus community service. Students feel pushed to the brink, educators worry they aren’t learning anything substantive, and college professors and business leaders are concerned that incoming employees lack the skills needed to succeed. This film tackles the tragic side of our often achievement-obsessed culture and offers solutions.

Hawai’i local showing:  The film was shown in high schools around Oahu and at the Honolulu Art Academy.
For a CNN news story on Race to Nowhere  click here for video clip

Waiting for Superman, by Academy Award winning director David Guggenheim, presents the dismal and shocking facts about our outmoded education system. The film’s impact on the visibility of the education crisis, and animation of facts into a form that the public can digest, are important and helpful. However, the effect of the engaging stories of several students competing for entry to charter schools is, unfortunately, misleading though poignant.

Hawai’i local showing: This film was shown to teachers in Honolulu with representatives from the HI DOE, HSTA, Castle Foundation, and Kamehameha Schools hosting. Discussions run hot about mischaracterizations, assumptions, and focus on the minority of students angling for charter admission– rather than the majority who will and must be served via traditional public schools.  The animated statistics intro (a very useful part of the film) was shown at the Education Town Hall this spring attended by Governor Abercrombie and Maya Soetero-Ng.

For my review on “Waiting for Superman” click here to open pdf

A Community Concern, a film giving visibility to the power of organizing as a way to improve urban public schools, provides hope to community organizations across the country. A Community Concern is a documentary about people who refuse to accept the system’s failures, and are working for change. Their spirit, passion and commitment shows that when organizers, parents, youth and educators work together, they are successful. It brings together stories of people facing different challenges, but share similar goals.

Hawai’i local showing: A Community Concern was shown as an introduction to Education Talk Story meetings at churches on Oahu as a part of a community awareness campaign by FACE, Education Task Force (Faith Action for Community Equity).

For a preview, visit the website and click the video.


Learning Is Delightful

…if we don’t spoil it with clumsy efforts to control it, if we use a light, caring, skilled, technologically and psychometrically advanced touch to orchestrate learning. Leveraging exemplary resources, honoring teachers, adding our talent, expertise, and concern to that of professional educators, we can support individualized learning for each learner.  All humans deserve to learn and to develop their skills and talents. Now we have the capability to support learning for all and we can work to measure learning in less primitive and limited ways. Here are some of the strategies we hope to see more of in 2011 and beyond.

  1. Know what each learner knows and what grabs their interest in order to provide the most engaging and effective lesson.
  2. Individualize learning– providing support for each learner keyed to their interest, knowledge, and skill.
  3. Use our current technology and knowledge to develop engaging cross-curricular learning.
  4. Support learning programs that address real world problems and yield real world work.
  5. Utilize cooperative learning strategies for students to learn from each other in groups and to learn to listen, speak, and cooperate effectively.
  6. Assess student skiils and knowledge while they learn, integrated in learning, rather than in year-end tests.
  7. Leverage media, news, and social media in learning to connect students with history, the real world, and each other, around the world.
  8. Integrate all subjects in learning — as all subjects integrate in life and work.
  9. Provide year-round, day and night blended* learning opportunities to all, extending the school day and the school year.
  10. Share great lectures and lessons across classrooms, schools, districts, and states.
  11. Hire more art, music, dance, PE teachers and integrate their teaching in core subject learning.
  12. Enable all students to be taught by master teachers for at least a class a week.
  13. Increase hands-on science, engineering, art, music, math and project-based learning opportunities.

* Blended learning=live in-person coaching or instruction blended with asynchronous and synchronous online lessons and resources.

Teachers Love to Teach



… if we do not burden them with unreasonable expectations, bureaucratic barriers, and disrespectful working conditions.  To attract more great teachers, to keep more great teachers, to enable more good teachers to become great, we need to employ strategies to improve their teaching experience and practice.
  1. Leverage technology to provide respectful, fair, useful teacher evaluations to drive instructional excellence.
  2. Enable/require teachers to share exemplar lessons and to collaborate with master teachers. (Lesson Study)
  3. Revamp colleges of education, including early in-class experience and advanced instructional techniques.
  4. Link districts and colleges of education for mutual support, reflection, and effectiveness.
  5. Educate teachers in student and teacher assessment principles and scoring
  6. Provide time for teachers to collaborate across subjects.
  7. Leverage high quality media and technology for learning.
  8. Develop locally relevant, cross-curricular, project-based, inquiry-based, media-enriched instruction.
  9. Respect teacher unions’ important role in protecting and supporting teachers.
  10. Rethink teacher tenure and layoff policies to support teacher continuity and quality instruction.