Teacher evaluations may get a mix of reviews

MEEKER I Colorado educator perceptions about teacher evaluations declined between 2011 and 2013, according to the Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) Colorado survey. However, pilot studies of the evaluation system in Denver have shown improvements in educator perceptions during implementation.
The TELL survey is an anonymous statewide survey of teachers, principals and other certificated educators in our public schools. The 2013 TELL survey results had 60 percent of Colorado educators reporting that the teacher evaluation process improves teachers’ instruction in 2013 as compared to 74 percent in 2011.
Eighty percent of Colorado educators think evaluations are fair and only 62 percent agree that the teacher evaluation process accurately identifies effectiveness.
Meeker School District RE-1 (MSD) is implementing the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) model for teacher evaluations this year. Full implementation will begin next year. Ineffective ratings this year won’t count against a teacher but effective scores will start to accrue.
The next TELL survey will be in 2015 and will be closely watched to see what educators think of the evaluation process and its implementation within the MSD. If the trends for MSD hold true, the survey results won’t improve. But if trends follow the pilot study model, survey results may improve.
In Spring 2013, only 49 percent of MSD teachers agreed that the evaluation process was effective and only 69 percent of MSD educators thought the process was fair. These results are much lower than the state-wide numbers.
Based on the CDE teacher evaluation model, teachers can earn non-probationary status after three consecutive years of effective ratings. Two years of ineffective ratings erase the non-probationary status and could lead to dismissal.
The rating system is based on five standards: content knowledge, establish an environment, facilitate learning, reflect on practice and demonstrated leadership. Each standard has three to eight specific elements.
Teachers receive a final rating of ineffective, partially effective, effective or highly effective.
Each performance standard can be scored from 0-4 by an evaluation team based on the number of elements observed.
The basic, partially proficient and proficient categories are a measure of the teacher performance and the accomplished to exemplary categories are based on student interviews. The evaluation is done by a team of evaluators of five or more during class time.
Many of the evaluation criteria are subjective. For example one of the elements in the first quality standard says that a proficient teacher must be able to “clarify and elaborate on interdisciplinary connections for students.”
However, a teacher that is rated as basic would only be able to “emphasize key concepts and connect them to other powerful ideas within the content area.” If this element was the decisive element, the difference in numerical rating would be 2 versus 0 for the standard.
Parents with kids in the elementary or junior high schools may have seen a similar evaluation system.
They may recall that a ”pp” or partially proficient rating is not good. In this teacher evaluation model, the basic rating scores zero and a partially proficient scores one. Ratings of accomplished and exemplary are difficult to achieve. For example, during the Denver pilot study, more than 87 percent of the teachers received a proficient or higher score for every standard.
In this system, an ineffective numerical rating for teachers or principals would correspond to a basic to low partially proficient evaluation rating averaged over the standards and much less than expected student testing result. Expected student testing is determined at the district level.
The spring 2013 TELL survey showed some striking differences in rating for educators in the MSD as compared to Colorado educators state-wide and showed steep declines from ratings in 2011. The TELL survey had an 85 percent response rate in 2013 and therefore is likely accurate for assessing educators’ attitudes and morale within the MSD.
Only 33 percent of MSD educators felt there was an effective process for making group decisions compared to 46 percent in 2011 and 66 percent for Colorado educators. Another question in TELL was about if teachers were recognized for their accomplishments, and only 31 percent of MSD educators felt this was the case as compared 62 percent in 2011 and to 75 percent of Colorado educators.
The amount of time for professional development is an issue for teachers since only 38 percent of the MSD educators in 2013 thought there was sufficient time. In 2011, 57 percent of MSD educators thought there was enough time, as did 62 percent of Colorado educators.