#NASBE16: Helping All Teachers Improve Their Practice Through Sound Policy

Live blogging

Thomas Toch, Center on the Future of American Education
Rachel Wise, Nebraska State Board of Education, Chair
Robert Hull, NASBE (facilitator)

Hull: Student success depends upon recruiting, preparing, developing, and supporting great teachers.

Toch: Traditional teacher evaluation was a drive-by; annual visits by a principal with a checklist, looking for clean classrooms and quiet students--superficial exercises that didn't focus directly on the quality of teacher instruction, much less student learning. No incentives to thoughtfully compare teacher performances. Most school districts didn't do them. Nearly every teacher received satisfactory rating; virtually no one fired for under-performance. Absence of meaningful measures of teacher quality made rewarding talent and other steps to strengthen the profession nearly impossible to implement. Incentives eliminated in ESSA.

Toch: More comprehensive teacher eval systems have launched several important improvements in public ed:
  • Elevating instruction - clearer teaching standards; ending teacher isolation/sparking discussions about what good teaching is; forcing school leaders to prioritize classrooms over cafeterias
  • Removing lower performers - in some school districts, removing teachers for underperformance for first time ever, through dismissal and voluntary attrition
  • Beyond "bad apples" - states and school districts increasingly prioritizing ways to help teachers improve their practice - "can't fire our way to a stronger teaching force"
  • Smarter staffing decisions - using data to manage human capital systems more effectively
  • Foundation for new roles, responsibilities - tapping highly-rated teachers to be peer evaluators, mentors, lead teachers--new roles that give teachers more pay and higher status; career ladders
  • Raising student achievement - early evidence from places with comprehensive reforms in place the longest is encouraging (cites DC, Tennessee, Cincinnati)
Good eval system includes: Multiple measures - CR observations, student surveys, certain achievement results. Evaluation Data Drives Smarter HR Decisions:
  • DCPS discovered teachers hired by May are 20% more effective
  • Teachers can sign up to visit top teachers in other schools in their subject areas and grade levels (in DC, teachers can sign up online to do this)
  • Instructional coaches, curriculum committee members, etc., drawn from ranks of top-rated teachers
  • A sound basis for paying top teachers up to $125K per year (Admin, $180K/year)
  • Target recruitment at higher ed institutions that produce the most top teachers
Many of the new evaluation systems are in early stages and are far from perfect. Challenges (not surprising, given pace/scale of reform to a core element of educational enterprise):
  • Technical problems - especially with student achievement measures
  • Lack of infrastructure - rubrics, systems design, evaluator training, data systems, etc
  • Costs - more comprehensive systems are more expensive
  • Teacher morale - speed, early "bad aples", focus, student test scores
Emerging infrastructure in DC:
  • Simpler rubrics
  • Multiple measures/reduced role for student achievement
  • Stronger eval/teacher training
  • Efficiency through differentiated observations
  • Better evaluator feedback/stronger links to professinal improvement (Common Core)
  • Teacher morale is rising
Upshot:
  • Complex policy change at the heart of the edu enterprise is a long-term proposition; can't happen overnight
  • no eval system is perfect
  • but, you can't help people improve if you don't know what needs improving--even if measuring teacher performance is an inexact science
  • hard-learned lessons of recent years; building on progress since 2009--staying the course is in the best interest of student and teachers
Rachel Wise on what's been going on in Nebraska through AQuESTT: Accountability for a Quality Educational System, Today and Tomorrow
  • Quality, not blame or shame
  • Beyond assessment and student performance as sole measures
  • Focusing on investments that we know matter in student success
  • Establishing a "Theory of Action" rather than a measure in isolation
  • Building a system to support and help teachers
  • Focusing on growth and improvement
  • Working collaboratively to support/improve the whole 
AQuESTT: Two-Pronged Approach to Analysis
  • Raw Classification
    • Traditional metrics of student achievement such as assessment, graduation rates, participation
      • No quantitative metrics associated with staff evaluation
  • Evidence Based Analysis
    • Qualitative analysis based on implementation of best practives and needs of support and technical assistance in the six tenets of AQuESTT
      • "School-level evidence" of the implementation of a formal staff eal process aligned to the Nebraska Teacher and Principal Performance Framework
      • "School-level Evidence" of an annual professional learning plan that supports continuous improvement
Virginia Q: Sorry to see this session at the very end with so few people...very valuable convo/presentation Toch: one does not want to make blanket statements. Fairfax is a rigorous district.

Connecticut Q: Trying to work out a multiple stakeholder system student performance place an important part - if not test scores, what? Toch: thoughtful Q. Research I've seen suggests that VAM (as opposed to perfomance scores=snapshot, inherently unfair to teachers), imperfect as it is, is considered by researchers that are predictive of teachers success with their students; combined with multiple observations is a vastly improved system. Wise: We're blessed in NE - we're small enough and know each other. Our teachers are coming along with the process; evolution with teachers at the table, not necessarily the union

And - that's a wrap! See you all in Atlanta next year #NASBE17