Monday, October 17, 2011
Illinois Teacher Evaluation
A Practical Study
North Central Illinois News Tribune
Implementing a state mandated evaluation plan may sound scary to teachers, but Nicky Barto, a Hall High School teacher, said the process could be rewarding.
As a tenured science teacher at Hall and representative for the high school faculty’s Illinois Education Association union, Barto has good cause to pay attention to the PERA implementation plan. More so, she’s a school board member in DePue, where she resides.
Barto finds herself at an advantage being able to experience the issue from two perspectives, particularly as DePue schools are already implementing a new evaluation system in order to meet the requirements of a school improvement grant the district received.
“At DePue they have completely instituted the teacher evaluation part of the PERA. They are test-piloting the student growth part of it,” Barto said, adding that if found to be successful the district will officially adopt the student growth component next year, well ahead of the PERA schedule.
She said the district is using a number of assessments as well as formal and informal in-class inspections to evaluate teacher performance. District administrators worked with teachers to develop appropriate and realistic goals to measure student growth.
The state, she said, is recommending districts not rely on standardized tests or No Child Left Behind-style standards to measure growth. She said it’s unrealistic to expect every student in a class to hit the same benchmark. Instead, the district will want to see that each student shows personal academic growth.
“I love the tool that we developed down there. It does need some flexibility for each district,” she said.
“Across the whole state every district uses such a variety of tools. I think in a lot of cases the tools have been used as a gotcha for teachers rather than for the growth of the teacher.”
By focusing on helping teachers improve rather than trying to catch teachers making mistakes, Barto said the process will be more beneficial for all involved. Additionally, she supported the idea of multiple in-class inspections rather than just one in order to give evaluators a better sample of the teacher they are judging.
Ideally, in such a system teachers would be able to get more constructive advice.
The DePue evaluation system is based in part on the Charlotte Danielson model, according to Barto. Named for an educational consultant, the model promotes shifting the focus of evaluations from “inspection” to “collaborative reflection,” according to the Danielson Group’s Web site.
Each district in the state will develop its own personalized evaluation plan. Barto said it’s likely the handful of schools currently implementing plans because of the grant requirements will be used as models for the rest of the state.
While on board with PERA, Barto said she remains a bit leery of some of the language in an education reform package the state approved this year, referred to as Senate Bill 7. She said she believes the state needs to “iron out” some of the details regarding the potential to fire tenured teachers.
“I’m not saying a bad teacher shouldn’t be fired, not by any means,” Barto said, “but right now it’s a little ambiguous at the state level.” Read more
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