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A new teacher evaluation system being tested at two OUSD schools

Dave Orphal, a teacher at Skyline High School in Oakland, will write a series of blog posts for The Education Report about teacher evaluations — including a pilot program that two middle schools are using this year. He serves as a veteran teacher leader for the Bay Area New Millennium Initiative and works with the California Teachers Association’s Institute for Teaching. You can read more of Dave’s thoughts on teaching and educational reform at TransformED.

David OrphalIn the last session of the OEA/OUSD teacher conference last Saturday, I sat in a session about a new teacher-evaluation system piloted by two Oakland schools. Like my own school, these two are under interdict from the state and federal education authorities to dramatically remodel themselves because their test scores remain unsatisfactory.

The schools applied for, and received, a federal grant to help them with their remodeling. One of the conditions for the money is to revamp their teacher evaluation system so that student achievement data is included. Additionally, the new system will have to include provisions for teacher improvement, reward, and removal.

The panel talking about the evaluation system included teachers, principals, and district personnel in charge of school transformation.

The proposed teacher evaluation system used by these two schools includes six components:

  • Data-driven Planning and Assessment
  •  Classroom Learning Environment
  • Instruction
  • Professional Responsibilities
  • Partnerships, Family & Community
  • Student Achievement Data

The first five standards are not a huge departure from the California Standards for the Teaching Profession that are currently used for teacher evaluations throughout Oakland and much of the state:

  • Engaging and Supporting All Students in Learning
  • Creating and Maintaining Effective Environments
  • Understanding and Organizing Subject Matter
  • Planning Instruction and Designing Learning Environments
  • Assessing Student Learning
  • Developing as a Professional Educator

Both the current and proposed evaluation systems include a detailed rubric, or graph, that describes various levels of teacher achievement in each of the components.

Not Consistent w/ Standards — Level I
Developing Beginning Practice  – Level II
Maturing Beginning Practice — Level III
Exemplifies the Standard — Level IV

Perhaps the biggest difference and possibly the biggest obstacle to the piloted evaluation system is its inclusion of student-assessment data. This brought up several questions for me, such as:

  • Who will decide what student assessments are included in a teacher’s evaluation?
  • How will be student data be weighted verses the other five components?
  • What happens when the student-assessment data disagrees with the rest of the evaluation?

I was happy to hear from the panel that at the two pilot schools, the teachers will get to choose what student assessments that they will be evaluated with.

I’m not patently against using student achievement data to judge teachers. Helping students learn is ultimately the role of a teacher. I’ve even written before about an assessment that Oakland Unified uses that I would be willing to stake my career and reputation on. I would not be willing to stake my career on the California Standards Test or the California High School Exit Exam. With those two tests, I am very concerned with the secrecy surrounding the questions and assessments, the nature of some of the questions, and how tests like these are harming the very learning they purport to assess.

A second major difference between the current and piloted evaluation systems concerns the frequency, duration, and personnel involved with teacher observations. Under the current system, one administrator does all of a teacher’s observations. There are two planned and one drop-in observation. While the observations are supposed to be extensive, in practice, they are very brief, sometimes lasting a little as ten minutes.

Under the proposed system, both a principal and a coach do observations. Each assessor does one long (30+ minute) and two short (15-20 minute) observations. In all, a teacher would be observed six times by two people. Additionally, each teacher would be the subject of a student survey and a teacher survey asking them to evaluate their instructor and colleague respectively.

I think this component, the surveys, will be another sticking point for the proposed observation system.  My next post will focus specifically on that point.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • del

    Very interesting. Looking forward to hearing more!

  • Katy Murphy

    I also attended the evaluation system session on Saturday, and learned quite a bit. I plan to write about the pilot project as well.

  • Nextset

    Hilarious. Where is a mention of student evaluation programs?

    One of the games being played in the failed urban school districts is that if the chillun fail it must be the fault of the teachers.

    Well that’s not true.

    If the coursework is beyond the ability of the kiddies no amount of good teaching is going to turn them into “good” students. Dullards should not be in a classroom or on a campus that is inappropriate for them. Since that goes against the canon that “all students are created equal”, instead we get teachers subjects to a random draw of students no matter how dull and how unsuited to, say, 8th grade reading or math levels.

    Then the district wants to blame the teaching staff for the results.

    Until the schools first put in a comprehensive grading and sorting of the incoming students at each year, this kind of anti teacher measure is nothing more than an anti worker campaign that should be recognized and denounced as such.

    And the best way to handle it is for the good teachers to simply quit and go to work at school districts with good students. That’s pretty easy to find. Demographics are your destiny.

    This wouldn’t be required is schools in the urban areas IQ tested or otherwise sorted incoming classes and assigned students to tracked programs suitable for their ability and their wishes. No college prep for those who don’t want it or can’t perform. Vocational education on demand. This is what worked. We should never have stopped these programs.

    Previously, students were assigned to programs that were not calculated to produce failure because they were appropriate to the student’s ability. Now frustration and rage turns urban campuses into dangerous places and “graduated” unemployable people. And to coverup their deliberate failure the school district campaigns to blame the teachers for the failure the district programmed. That’s what we have here. A cover up designed to find false blame in teachers.

    Brave New World.

  • http://www.skylinehs.org David Orphal

    I think Nextset offers some interesting ideas about student assessment.

    However, I want to encourage Nextset to avoid the shame/blame spiral. While I agree that pointing a finger and blaming teachers for poor student performance at best oversimplifies a very complex situation. On the other hand, simply pointing a finger at a student or a parent is just a unproductive.

    I find that when I talk with parents and students about a student’s poor academics, we get a lot more progress when we look at the situation as a problem we can solve together. When each of us, myself as the teacher, the parent, and the student, each commits to making changes that s/he can control, together we can create a real solution.

    I like to use the same thinking when I think about the current and this proposed teacher-evaluation system. I need to focus on what I can control:namely my craft as a professional educator.

    It is certainly possible that my coach and principal may observe my craft and judge me to be an exemplar on all five or six criteria, then my student performance data comes back and it is atrocious. While this is certainly possible, I wonder how likely it might be? If it is likely, then I hope we would jump at the chance to analyze this. Does this discrepancy point to fundamental flaws in the student assessment tool? Am I, and are my coach and principal, mistaken in what we observe?

    As a teacher, I welcome coaching, especially good coaching. You can read an excellent essay about five elements of good coaching from Ms. Lillie Marshall here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/teach-plus/5-teacher-evaluation-must_b_1446778.html?ref=education

    If we choose to revamp our teacher evaluation system, or if we choose to continue to use our current system, this I believe remain true: Teacher observations and evaluations should be used to help teachers to improve. The “gotcha” game serves no one.

  • Nextset

    David Orphal: It is not shame/blame to correctly match a student to an educational program. The NFL does it when they administer the Wonderlic IQ test to all candidates for positions on football teams. The US Military does it before they allow any applicants into any of their programs – enlisted, officer or ROTC. Such candidate matching is done in education and occupational programs everywhere where success is the object. Is success the object at OUSD?

    The reason we are having the disasters in the urban schools that we have here is that the Educrats miss-match incoming students to class assignments so that the dulls become enraged and frustrated – tearing apart the once-functioning schools. Now we propose to grade and punish or even “re-train” the instructional staff because this abusive miseducation doesn’t produce college ready blacks and browns? And make no mistake this is all about libs and minority students. Also don’t ever interpret what is being done to the black/brown students as reflecting any special love. The educators know exactly what they are doing and they do not mean well for the minority students (who they regard badly).

    And exactly why should the staff hang around for this treatment when they can go work in a real school?

    If OUSD continues in the vein they are in they will erode to little or nothing with each passing year of Charter Television ads. Ditto the similar ghetto school districts.

    And the sooner the better.

    Brave New World.