- Evaluating and supporting educators
One of the least well recognized transitions currently taking place in America’s schools is a major shift in the nature of teacher evaluation. Fomented by substantial federal incentives, most of our states have adopted teacher-evaluation strategies that, in contrast to yesteryear’s evaluative approaches, are aimed more directly at the firing of inept teachers than at improving the instruction of all teachers. Put simply, this altered emphasis represents a move from formative to summative teacher evaluation. In the proposed, designedly interactive symposium, challenges and potential solution strategies for this transition will be explored both by the symposium’s participants and the audience.
First, the format of the proposed interactive symposium will be described, for it is our intention to involve members of the audience actively in addressing the significant issue under consideration. The moderator, a chief state school officer, will set the stage for the session—describing the importance of the fundamental modification in states’ teacher-evaluation procedures—including his own state’s thinking on this topic. He will alert the audience that, during the symposium’s three presentations, everyone should identify at least one point per presenter with which they seriously agree or disagree. Then, after the symposium’s three presentations (taking from 10-15 minutes each), audience members will take part in a “turn-and-talk” activity in which small groups of two or three persons contrast their per-presenter perceptions. After that activity, the moderator will lead an extended open discussion dealing with audience-raised concerns.
The current changes in states’ teacher-evaluation frameworks were triggered, of course, by the 2009’s Race to the Top Program (RTT) and 2011’s ESEA Flexibility Program. Both of these federal initiatives called for those states who wished to receive federal RTT grants or waivers to avoid NCLB sanctions to install new, more demanding teacher-evaluation systems. Because both of these federal programs urged states to establish evaluative systems in which multiple measures were employed and student growth was “a significant factor” in evaluating teachers. Moreover, because students’ test performances were now to play a prominent role in supplying teacher-evaluation strategies that would be “contributory to personnel decisions,” the emphasis of the nation’s emerging teacher-appraisal systems are patently more summative than formative in their orientation. The shift from the more formative, improvement-focused teacher evaluations of past years to these new, more summatively directed teacher-evaluation systems will be what the proposed symposium addresses.
The moderator, a key player in the proposed symposium, will be Terry Holliday, Kentucky Commissioner of Education. As noted above, his initial remarks will establish the symposium’s content limits and its upcoming interaction procedures. The three presentations, after the moderator’s stage-setting remarks, will be made (alphabetically). First will be Alan Burke, Deputy Superintendent of Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. His state has devised the Teacher and Principal Evaluation Program that attempts to deal successfully with the potential schism between formative and summative evaluation. Cindy Hill, Wyoming’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, will then describe her views regarding teacher evaluation. Given her administration’s strong emphasis on promoting instructional improvements in Wyoming’s classrooms, her views of summative evaluation’s likely impact should be illuminating. The final presentation will be made by UCLA emeritus professor, W. James Popham, who had been addressing U.S. teacher evaluation, in research and in print, for over 50 years. Given these three presenters’ remarks, we foresee a lively, audience-involved session.
Because the 2013 conference’s thematic emphases are on “building bridges, making transitions,” the proposed symposium’s central question will be whether the current national transition in teacher evaluation’s emphasis from a formative to summative orientation is, indeed, a bridge too far.