One School’s Legitimately, “New and Improved” Teacher Evaluation System: In TIME Magazine

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In an article featured this week in TIME Magazine titled “How Do You Measure a Teacher’s Worth?” author Karen Hunter Quartz – research director at the UCLA Community School and a faculty member in the UCLA Graduate School of Education – describes the legitimately, “new and improved” teacher evaluation system co-constructed by teachers, valued as professionals, in Los Angeles.

Below are what I read as the highlights, and also some comments re: the highlights, but please do click here for the full read as this whole article is in line with what many who research teacher evaluation systems support (see, for example, Chapter 8 in my Rethinking Value-Added Models in Education…).

“For the past five years, teachers at the UCLA Community School, in Koreatown, have been mapping out their own process of evaluation based on multiple measures — and building both a new system and their faith in it…this school is the only one trying to create its own teacher evaluation infrastructure, building on the district’s groundwork…[with] the evaluation process [fully] owned by the teachers themselves.”

“Indeed, these teachers embrace their individual and collective responsibility to advance exemplary teaching practices and believe that collecting and using multiple measures of teaching practice will increase their professional knowledge and growth. They are tough critics of the measures under development, with a focus on making sure the measures help make teachers better at their craft.”

Their new and improved system is based on three different kinds of data — student surveys, observations, and portfolio assessments. The latter includes an assignment teachers gave students, how teachers taught this assignment, and samples of the student work produced during/post the assignment given. Teachers’ portfolios were then scored by “educators trained at UCLA to assess teaching quality on several dimensions, including academic rigor and relevance. Teachers then completed a reflection on the scores they received, what they learned from the data, and how they planned to improve their practice.”

Hence, the “legitimate” part of the title of this post, in that this section is being externally vetted. As for the “new and improved” part of the title of this post, this comes from data indicating that “almost all teachers reported in a survey that they appreciated receiving multiple measures of their practice. Most teachers reported that the measures were a fair assessment of the quality of their teaching, and that the evaluation process helped them grow as educators.”

However, there was also “consensus that more information was needed to help them improve their scores. For example, some teachers wanted to know how to make assignments more relevant to students’ lives; others asked for more support reflecting on their observation transcripts.”

In the end, though, “[p]erhaps the most important accomplishment of this new system was that it restored teachers’ trust in the process of evaluation. Very few teachers trust that value-added measures — which are based on tests that are far removed from their daily work — can inform their improvement. This is an issue explored by researchers who are probing the unintended consequences of teacher accountability systems tied to value-added measures.”

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