Implementing Evaluation Systems: A Time for Teacher Voice

Blog post Alison GrizzleTim Dove

This article was written by Alison Grizzle of Alabama State Department of Education and Tim Dove of CCSSO. It is based on their discussions in Salt Lake City during the most recent National Network of State Teachers of the Year conference. Full text originally published here.

This series is a result from our meeting and conversations in Salt Lake City at the most recent National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) conference.

Many states have focused their efforts to improve schools and student achievement through the primary catalyst for change: teachers and school leadership. They have determined that more comprehensive teacher and leader evaluation systems are the vehicle for this improvement. With a focus on increasing student achievement, what is our purpose in teacher evaluation? Is the purpose to sort and rank teachers, or is the purpose to create conditions for meaningful conversations about practice? Can one system meet both of these criteria effectively?

Meanwhile, recent work on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as the Every Child Achieves Act (Senate) or the Student Success Act (House) has focused on trying to determine the direction of a whole host of educational concerns, including the role of the federal and state education agencies. When teacher evaluation is no longer tied to a federal expectations, what will happen to the work in many states around this critical issue?

We must understand that as long as teacher evaluation is grounded in compliance, teachers will have limited growth opportunities. Teacher evaluation should honor the complexity of the craft as well as the context in which teachers teach. Compliance-based systems create a focus on documentation and checklists rather than transformative conversations. The movement from compliance requires teachers and leaders to work collaboratively in the creation of systems that are aligned to their core beliefs around effectiveness. We must prepare teachers for advocacy roles so they can brief leaders on the unintended consequences embedded within some education policies. Teacher evaluation is an area in which the teacher voice and the teacher experience is not just valuable, it is vital.

Our belief and hope is that state leadership will continue this work, not because of federal compliance but that it is the right work to do. The continuation and refinement of this work will give classroom teachers an opportunity to insert themselves into the conversation with policymakers and state education agencies. Many of the participants at the NNSTOY conference discussed how NNSTOY could be a catalyst to these contacts and conversations, beyond what has already occurred. And we believe that increasing authentic teacher participation in the conversations around evaluation is the right place to begin.

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