Monday, December 10, 2012

How to grade our teachers is a matter to Royal Oak Agency

How to grade our teachers? Royal Oak agency releases its recommendations for teacher evaluations WITH VIDEO

A Royal Oak-based education advocacy agency is releasing its own recommendations for teacher evaluations as local districts and the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness create new models to ensure children achieve in the classroom.

Based on their findings, leaders at The Education Trust-Midwest, based in Royal Oak, said their surveys have shown most districts do not have an adequate model in use at this time.

While new state legislation was approved in 2011 that required all Michigan districts to evaluate teachers under a rating system that includes “ineffective,” “minimally effective,” “effective” and “highly effective” as soon as their teacher contracts expired, local districts had little time to develop the evaluation tool.

Their teacher evaluation programs might be temporary until the state model is provided by the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness.
Any school district will be able to use the new state model, which will save the cost of creating its own.

But some districts prefer their own model and will be allowed to use it as long as it follows state standards to be handed down by the Michigan Department of Education, said David Zeman, director of content and communications.

In “Good for Teachers, Good for Students,” its second report in a series on teacher evaluations, Education-Midwest has released a new survey of 28 districts in various types of communities — rural, urban, suburban, small and large.


Zeman and Drew Jacobs, data and policy analyst, said this year’s sample and a previous report indicate local school districts are struggling to come up with a high-quality evaluation tool that will include observation and provide feedback and support to teachers who are struggling. 
Among their several recommendations is that there should be directions on how to do an evaluation so each teacher is evaluated under the same standards; that the evaluation be more than a checklist; and that it provide feedback to the teacher and support toward strengthening any weaknesses.

Also key in their report is including student growth and results of the state’s standardized testing in the evaluation model to gauge teachers’ impact on student learning.

Only one Oakland County public school district was among the agency’s list of 28 that Education-Midwest contacted. That was Pontiac schools, which Education-Midwest said provided no information for the study.

However, since the survey was done earlier this year, Pontiac school district has completed its new evaluation system created by administrators and teachers, said Pontiac Superintendent Brian Dougherty. Even though it was put in place this past year, it has been modified since.

Both Michigan Education Association President Aimee McKeever and Pontiac school Superintendent say it is a good one.

“The one the district had last year was thrown together and no input was taken from us,” McKeever explained. “The previous administration was not as open to input from teachers as the current one (which has) “a better attitude and better tone.

“We want an atmosphere that is truly fair and reflects what we need to have so we have high-quality teachers. That is our goal as well as the administrations.

“We certainly want to be evaluated,” McKeever said.

Dougherty said one part of the evaluation program will be that teachers, on a voluntary basis, will demonstrate teaching units that will be video-taped for critique. Some will be provided for colleagues to watch as a model for teaching a particular subject.

McKeever said the videos might be given to parents or put on the local education channel for parents to use as a tool in helping their children achieve.
Both the superintendent and the union president said they don’t want the evaluation to be a punitive one.

Dougherty agrees with Zeman and Jacobs that evaluations must be done through observation in the classroom to help identify areas where teachers excel and need professional development.

However, he does not agree that master teachers should be asked to observe in the classroom to assist the principal. He doesn’t believe a teacher should be put in the position of evaluating a colleague.

However, the superintendent does believe that it is good to identify highly skilled teachers who can model teaching skills via video for teachers who need additional development.

Dougherty also agrees with the Education-Midwest recommendations that good evaluations will give a district the information needed to learn what the areas of weakness are in a building or districtwide and provide professional development for that specific need.

If an individual teacher is a preponderance of weakness, a plan of action will be provided.

Midwest’s first report earlier this year, “Strengthening Michigan’s Teacher Force,” focused on teacher effectiveness ratings in 10 state school districts — two of them in Oakland County — that raised concerns among agency leaders.

That report indicated almost all teachers were deemed “effective” under their rating system, with few in the “minimally effective” or “highly effective,” area. This means, Midwest said, that school administrators might not be identifying struggling teachers and giving them extra support.

Nor are the majority of districts identifying the best teachers so they can be called on to be school leaders, the report indicated.

To see the reports, visit
Contact Staff writer Diana Dillaber Murray at 248-745-4638, email or Twitter @DDillybar.