Entire State to Test Teacher Evaluation System

Entire State to Test Teacher Evaluation System

Classroom observation and test scores will be two factors examined.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - School districts across Arkansas are preparing to implement the state’s new Teacher Excellence and Support System, or TESS – a process that spells out how to rate teachers’ performance, helps them correct deficiencies, and, if necessary, can lead to their dismissal.

The system was tested at 11 schools this past year and will expand to a statewide pilot this year before going into effect in 2014-15.

Dr. Karen Cushman, the Arkansas Department of Education’s assistant commissioner for HR licensure and educator effectiveness, is the state’s point person on the transition.

Teachers will be evaluated on a variety of factors, including classroom observation and test scores. The primary goal is to find specific areas in need of improvement and then help teachers improve.

According to Cushman, novice or probational teachers will undergo a full summative evaluation covering 22 components every year, while all other teachers will undergo such an evaluation every three years. The summative evaluations will be used to create a professional growth plan so that teachers and evaluators focus on areas of deficiency.

Teachers will be given ratings in four categories: planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. In each category, they will be scored at one of four performance levels: distinguished, proficient, basic, and unsatisfactory.

Under the law that created TESS in 2011, teachers scoring unsatisfactory for two consecutive semesters in a category will be dismissed, though that can be extended another two semesters if they show improvement.

Under the old system, teachers typically have been observed in a classroom setting by an administrator using a simple pass-fail checklist. That system routinely resulted in almost every teacher being deemed satisfactory with little follow-up development.

TESS is based on a model designed by Charlotte Danielson, a nationally recognized teacher evaluation expert. Unlike the checklist, which had no descriptors, the Danielson rubric specifically describes a teacher’s level of performance in each of the 22 components. In the student engagement component, a teacher who scores basic – barely good enough, in other words – would rely mostly on worksheets. A proficient teacher, on the other hand, might ask students to hypothesize what would happen if the United States elected presidents through the popular vote rather than the Electoral College, divide students into table groups to discuss, and then have them report on the results of the discussion.

Cushman said surveys of teachers from the 11 schools piloting the program indicated that they believed it did help them improve their performance more than the old system. However, it will need to be tweaked. Despite its specificity, it remains too subjective and may need to be based more on numerical values. “We’re asking people to average words, and that’s difficult to do,” she said.

So far, about 3,000 administrators have undergone a one-day face-to-face training on TESS, while 38,000 educators have undergone software training.

Dr. Kim Wilbanks, superintendent of the Jonesboro School District, said that teachers at Jonesboro High, one of the pilot schools, had reacted positively to the new system. “Where in the past we’ve used ambiguous terms and maybe not been clear on exactly what it would take for instruction to improve, this helps create a common vocabulary for administrators and teachers alike as they move towards improvement,” she said.

Wilbanks said the greatest challenge to the new system is the heavy burden it places on administrators, particularly principals, whose role in schools is changing from building administrator to instructional leader. Concurrent with TESS, a principal evaluation and improvement system is being implemented known as the Leader Excellence And Development System, or LEADS. The first principal evaluation training on LEADS was June 3.

“You’re going to see a new brand of administrators, and that’s already the case in many school districts,” Wilbanks said. “But 10 years from now, when you look at a school principal, the stereotypical image may not be what it was 10 years ago as we move toward true instructional leaders in every principal position.”

Story by Steve Brawner via TalkBusiness.net.
Page: [[$index + 1]]
comments powered by Disqus