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Educators Think Chicago’s New Evaluation System Can Help Teachers Improve


9/18/2013

A new Joyce Foundation-funded report from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (UChicago CCSR) finds that one year into implementation, the overwhelming majority of teachers and principals believe that the new evaluation’s in-depth classroom observation process is fair, promotes teacher growth and is likely to lead to instructional improvement.

CPS implemented REACH (Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago Students) in 2012 as part of an effort to improve student outcomes by providing teachers more meaningful feedback and performance data to aid their professional development. It is the largest district in the country to have implemented these new systems in all of its schools. The CPS experience can provide valuable lessons for other districts in the 40-plus states that are currently rolling out these systems.

Key findings by UChicago CCSR include:

  • 76 percent of teachers said the evaluation process at their school encourages their professional growth, and 82 percent of principals reported noticeable improvements in half or more of the teachers they had observed over the school year.
  • 82 percent of teachers indicated the new system facilitated professional conversations with their administrators focused on instruction, and 94 percent of principals thought the Instructional Framework has improved the quality of their conversations with teachers about instruction.

However, the report also identifies some implementation hurdles to address going forward:

  • Internal communications challenges:Many teachers interviewed were hesitant about the use of student growth on assessments to evaluate their classroom performance, and were confused about how student growth would factor into their ratings.
  • Evaluator training needs:More than 60 percent of administrators said their understanding of how the different components of REACH were combined into a final summative rating for teachers was weak or moderate.
  • Increased administrator workload:The typical elementary administrator spent 120 hours (the equivalent of two full weeks) solely on teacher evaluation while the average high school administrator spent 168 hours (or roughly three full weeks). This time burden is likely to increase as the evaluation system is extended to tenured teachers this school year.

Every child deserves an outstanding teacher, and decades of research show that excellent teachers are the key to closing achievement gaps. Earlier this year, in national and Chicago public opinion surveys, we also heard from parents that they support efforts to hold teachers accountable for student outcomes. Guided by this belief, research, and data, the Joyce Foundation has invested in research, policy development, and advocacy to give all teachers the tools they need to become great, beginning with more meaningful evaluations. We hope that Chicago and other districts will focus intensely on using this new information to help teachers strengthen their practice.  It’s not enough to identify areas of strength and weakness. Districts must support school leaders in providing teachers with the clear feedback and targeted supports they need and want to grow the profession and to strengthen student learning.

For more on Joyce funding to support new teacher evaluations in Chicago and nationally, see:

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