The Teacher Evaluation plan in Chicago is a BIG problem…CPS, Rahm were told in March

A letter dated March 26, 2012 to CPS and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel from Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CREATE) was signed by 88 Educational Researchers from the Chicago area – and was highly critical of the districts teacher evaluation proposal. The letter outlined specific concerns based on years of research, and concluded with specific recommendations for developing teacher evaluations. The pdf file linked has complete reference and source links.

Highlights from the letter:

The new evaluation system for teachers and principals centers on misconceptions about student
growth, with potentially negative impact on the education of Chicago’s children. We believe it
is our ethical obligation to raise awareness about how the proposed changes not only lack a
sound research basis, but in some instances, have already proven to be harmful. In this letter, we describe our concerns and relevant research as we make two recommendations for moving forward:

1. Pilot and adjust the evaluation system before implementing it on a large scale.
2. Minimize the percentage that student growth counts in teacher or principal
We also urge consulting on the above steps with the professors and researchers among us who
bring both scholarly and practical expertise on these issues.

Concern #1: CPS is not ready to implement a teacher-evaluation system that is based on significant use of “student growth.”

If CPS insists on implementing a teacher-evaluation system that incorporates student growth in
September 2012, we can expect to see a widely flawed system that overwhelms principals and
teachers and causes students to suffer.

Concern #2: Educational research and researchers strongly caution against teacher evaluation approaches that use Value-Added Models (VAMs).

Value-added models (VAMs) of teacher effectiveness do not produce stable ratings of teachers. For example, different statistical models (all based on reasonable assumptions) can yield different effectiveness scores. Researchers have found that how a teacher is rated changes from class to class, from year to year, and even from test to test.

There is no evidence that evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores produce gains in student achievement. In order to determine if there is a relationship, researchers recommend small-scale pilot testing of such systems.

Assessments designed to evaluate student learning are not necessarily valid for measuring teacher effectiveness or student learning growth. Using them to measure the latter is akin to using a meter stick to weigh a person.

Concern #3: Students will be adversely affected by the implementation of this new teacher evaluation system.

When a teacher’s livelihood is directly impacted by his or her students’ scores on an end-of-year
examination, test scores take front and center. The nurturing relationship between teacher and
student changes for the worse.

1. Pilot and adjust the evaluation system before implementing it on a large scale. Any annual evaluation system should be piloted and adjusted as necessary based on field feedback before being put in place citywide. In other words, Chicago should pilot models and then use measures of student learning to evaluate the model. Delaware spent years piloting and fine-tuning their system before putting it in place formally statewide. Conversely, Tennessee’s teacher-evaluation system made headlines when its hurried implementation led to unintended negative consequences. 

2. Minimize the percentage that student growth counts in teacher or principal
evaluation. Until student-growth measures are found to be valid and reliable sources of information on teacher or principal performance, they should not play a major role in summative ratings. Teacher-practice instruments, such as the Charlotte Danielson Framework, focus on what a teacher does and how practice can be strengthened. Students benefit when objective feedback is part of their teachers’ experience. Similar principal frameworks serve the same purpose.

The conclusion of the letter is not only a warning, but predicted the current strike issues and potential problems resulting from test-based teacher evaluations:

We, Chicago-area university professors and researchers who specialize in educational research, conclude that hurried implementation of teacher evaluation using student growth will result in inaccurate assessments of our teachers, a demoralized profession, and decreased learning among and harm to the children in our care.

It is wasteful of increasingly limited resources to implement systemwide a program that has not yet been field-tested. Our students are more than the sum of their test scores, and an overemphasis on test scores will not result in increased learning, increased well-being, and greater success. According to a nine-year study by the National Research Council, the past decade’s emphasis on testing has yielded little learning progress, especially considering the cost to our taxpayers.

Badger Democracy contacted Professor Kevin Kumashiro at the University of Illinois-Chicago this afternoon. CREATE never received a response or comment from CPS officials, Board Members, or the Mayor’s Office – since March 2012.

Clearly, this is not about what is best for children, or teachers. These scholars have no vested interest beyond school success. They were ignored. That speaks volumes about responsible governance.

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