University of Chicago researchers believe their teacher evaluation study could drive national discussion

There's a national move toward beefing up teacher evaluations and linking them to test scores, but experts say there is very little research about the best way to get the job done. But University of Chicago researchers believe their recently completed work on the topic has national implications.

By Dave Murray

The consortium studied a teacher evaluation system for two years looking at 44 schools in 2008-2009 and 101 in 2009-2010, using the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching as its guide, The framework has been adopted as the Illinois state model.

Chicago previously used a system that both administrators and teachers found arbitrary and unfair, with 93 percent of the city's teachers rated superior or excellent – and 0.3 percent were deemed unsatisfactory. This was as 66 percent of the schools were falling short of state standards.

The Danielson program rates teachers on planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities.

Both teachers and principals received training, and teachers were observed twice a year with conferences to discuss practices.

Using a rubric based on the Danielson plan, principals and trained observers – usually retired teachers and principals – who watched the same lesson consistently gave the teacher the same ratings. But they were most likely to agree on teachers who were not performing well.
Teachers liked the Charlotte Danielson system, Stoelinga said, believing it to be more effective than their current evaluation program.

The report showed that training is important for principals to rate teachers effectively.

"Danielson’s Framework for Teaching has been a revelation to me; the best analogy I can offer is that the Framework is like having voice-guided GPS to direct you to a destination, when before you might have only had a destination name and an outdated road map."

Pre-Service Teacher, May 2016

“[The consultant] gave the best PD I have seen in 15 years of teaching, and was the first to explain [the] Danielson [Framework] in a human way. Bravo.”

A teacher, June 2015

“I am so impressed with the Danielson Group consultants. They are all so real. Your trainers helped make [proficient] teaching stronger and steered [basic teaching] toward increasing effectiveness.” 

A principal, June 2015

"Due to your consultant's seamless and meaningful transitions, knowledge of content, and rapport with the audience, the room was alive with energy and it made us all feel ready to begin the year off with success."

"Never before have I seen a group of seasoned educators like your consultants master the art of communicating with an audience with varied levels of expertise and interests. The two days that I spent with your team, I walked away with a desire to use the rubric to truly enhance my own practice."

"I left with a renewed look at the rubric, thinking that the rubric is the Great Equalizer! We can ALL enhance our practice by using it as a tool and a roadmap to produce students who think and are ready for college and careers. THANK YOU!"

"Your consultants' presence and organization of the day will not only impact the new teachers that attended, but will make the year alive for a vast number of students this year."

"Our workshop focused on calibration and inter-rater agreement training, so it was directly aligned to our individual and collective work with teacher performance evaluation.  With new administrators on the team, this type of training is critical."

"We were highly impressed with our Danielson Group consultant and the workshop. We have nothing but positive things to share. Staff have been emailing us, thanking us. This is the most worthwhile presentation we've been to in a while."

"The workshop you provided was hands-on, interesting, practical, and respectful of time limits. I heard more positive feedback about this workshop from staff than I have about any other."

"We wanted to let you know how much we appreciated the flexibility and professionalism that your consultant provided in our unique context. It helped us to keep on track with our schedule at a critical time. For that we are truly grateful."

"Your consultant presented a perfectly differentiated learning experience for all our principals. They were highly engaged, as demonstrated by on-topic conversations using academic language, completion of tasks requiring evidence identification, and note taking and 'grading' during classroom videos of teaching."

"Our school principals said the Framework observation training was the best training they had ever had, including the training provided when earning their Master’s degrees."

"I have a principal who was so excited about the breakthrough work with her staff in special education. I am already getting my money back!"

"My concern about the extra time it would take to implement the Framework successfully was not accurate. It took about the same amount of time as our prior evaluation system, and the benefits in professional growth and increased student achievement were more than worth it."

"I want to truly thank you for the brilliant job that you did with our training. I got such positive feedback from the team. They feel re-energized and like they have a direction and new tools to do the job."