Imagine an evaluation system for teachers where a teacher is considered “Effective” after earning “Needs Improvement” ratings on both of their measures of student learning AND on each of the following criteria: managing student behavior, creating an environment to support learning, engaging students in learning, demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness, and using questioning techniques.
Most casual observers would consider this to be a pretty weak appraisal system. Or at least, they’d understand this is not a system designed to give anyone accurate feedback or recognize differences in teaching quality. Perhaps they’d ask how such a system came to be and what were the designers of the system thinking.
If you want to understand how things like this happen in our education system, you can start with a review of the recommendations approved at last night’s DPAS-II Subcommittee meeting. This committee was created by House Joint Resolution #6 and is required to give recommendations on changes to the state’s educator evaluation system by March 31st, 2016. Prior to leaving the Delaware Dept of Education (DDOE) last week, I was the DDOE’s representative (a non-voting member) on this committee. Yesterday, the subcommittee’s 14 members unanimously approved a series of recommendations that the members of the legislature will likely attempt to act upon in April. Here are my reflections on last night’s meeting:
Adults are the focus of these decisions, not students:
The representatives on this committee work each day on behalf of Delaware students and have sacrificed a lot of personal time to serve on this committee. But it is hard to see how that commitment to students and equity is reflected in the committee’s recommendations.
- The committee will recommend reducing the weight of the Student Improvement and growth component of educators’ evaluations. The current system is designed such that an educator deemed “Effective” on the other four components based on classroom observations of their teaching (98% of educators in Delaware are effective on all of these components) but “unsatisfactory” based on their students’ growth will be considered “Needs Improvement.”
- The committee is also set to recommend that the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA)/Delaware Association for School Administrators (DASA)-designed evaluation rating system is piloted in 2016-17 and used statewide in the following year. The committee approved this rating system even after I noted the inconsistencies described above several times. A teacher’s students could show little growth under the proposed system and if they were rated highly on things like “Selecting Instructional Goals,” “Recording Data in a Student Record System,” or “Growing and Developing Professionally” they could still be considered “Effective.”
- The committee is also recommending that the use of students’ growth on the state Math/English assessment will no longer be required as one of two measures in a Math and English teacher’s Student Improvement component. This is currently the only statewide, uniform, and objective measure of educator effectiveness in the evaluation system.
Some voices matter more than others in this process:
The committee’s executive summary reads “The DPAS II Sub-Committee, comprised of representatives from all major educator and stakeholder groups.” But this is a misrepresentation. As one student highlighted during his comments, students are a major stakeholder group not at the table in this discussion. A parent attending the meeting also remarked that having one parent on the committee (when there are four DSEA representatives and four DASA representatives) to represent the entire state is also unacceptable.
Additionally, in other aspects of this process, not all voices are created equal. Last year’s DPAS-II Advisory Committee agreed to move the state to annual summative evaluations by 2017-18 and this change was approved by the State Board of Education. This year’s DPAS-II Advisory Committee asked the sub-committee to spend time discussing how this could be done in a way that was not overly burdensome for administrators. Half of the 4000+ Delaware teachers that responded to the 2015 DPAS-II survey even felt that moving to annual summative evaluations could enhance the DPAS-II system.
But the 14 people (or, at least, the most vocal members) on the subcommittee were not interested in exploring this. So they recommended that annual evaluations “are not necessary and should be rescinded.” The current system has only novice teachers (those in their first three years) and teachers on an improvement plan getting annual summative evaluations.
Also, during the last two meetings the Superintendent representatives (Matt Burrows and Dr. Susan Bunting) and a number of administrators on the committee noted that they wanted the committee to make sure principals and evaluators had the final say on the types of measures of student growth educators in their buildings use and the goals they set. The current policy is that educators and evaluators must discuss and agree to these goals–but administrators have the final say in case there is disagreement.
This would have undoubtedly been a point of disagreement between the teachers and administrators on this committee. So the chairs of the committee claimed this was too detailed of a matter for this committee to discuss and outside of the scope of its recommendations. It says a lot about this “representative” process if the expertise and recommendations of the two delegates of Delaware’s 19 superintendents are not regarded in the conversation.
I’ll end with a list of who is represented on this committee (see below). If you are interested in having a say in this discussion, there will likely be an opportunity for public comment when the chair and co-chair of the committee present their recommendations to the legislature and State Board in the coming months.
DPAS-II Sub-Committee Members
- Jackie Kook, Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) – Chair
- Dr. David Santore, DE Association for School Administrators (DASA) – Co-Chair
- Sherry Antonetti, Delaware State Education Association (DSEA)
- Clay Beauchamp, Delaware State Education Association (DSEA)
- Rhiannon O’Neal, Delaware State Education Association (DSEA)
- Kent Chase, DE Association for School Administrators (DASA)
- Dr. Clifton Hayes, DE Association for School Administrators (DASA)
- Dr. Charlynne Hopkins, DE Association for School Administrators (DASA)
- Bill Doolittle, Parent Representative (PTA)
- David Tull, DE Delaware School Boards Association
- Dr. Lisa Ueltzhoffer, Newark Charter – Charter School Representative
- Dr. Susan Bunting, School Chief’s Association/ (DPAS-II Advisory Committee Chairperson)
- Donna R Johnson, Delaware State Board of Education (non-voting member)
- The Honorable David Sokola, Delaware State Senate
- Tyler Wells, Higher Education
- Christopher Ruszkowski, Delaware Dept of Education (non-voting member)