By Guest-blogger Joy Singleton-Stevens
As Congress moves forward with the rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), there’s continued disagreement over whether or not teacher evaluation is a worthwhile investment. Can teacher evaluation really make teachers better? Can it improve student learning? Last week, Teach Plus released a new report (of which I’m a co-author) showing that teachers in an early-adopter district believe that evaluation is in fact having an impact on teaching and learning. Policy makers would be wise to pay attention.
As a Memphis teacher, I’m part of a group of educators who have been immersed in evaluation reform for longer than most other teachers in the nation. My district, Memphis City Schools (MCS), was among the first in the nation to move to a new, multiple-measure evaluation system that includes student growth. There is still work to be done, but MCS has created a blueprint for how a teacher evaluation can be structured and implemented in a way that teachers say works.
MCS has been able to lead and build a road map for successful teacher evaluation. With their funding from Tennessee’s early Race to the Top grant (TN was among the first two RTTT winners) and their participation in the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, MCS has displayed an innovative way to development and implement their new evaluation system, the Teacher Effectiveness Measure (TEM).
The new report, Lessons from the Leading Edge: Teachers’ Views on the Impact of Evaluation Reform, provides insight into teachers’ reactions to Memphis’ four-year journey from development to implementation of the new teacher evaluation system.
In partnership with Teach Plus, the Memphis Education Association sent out a survey to all teachers throughout the district. The survey set out to determine if teachers thought the TEM was leading to improvements in teaching and learning, if the rubric was coherent to teachers, whether support and resources for improvement were equally accessible to teachers across all ratings categories, and to what degree teacher relationships were changing as a result of the new evaluation system.
1,092 teachers responded. Among the most noteworthy findings:
- Nearly 60% of teachers feel that the implementation of the TEM is leading to improvement in teaching and student learning.
- Teachers rated at the highest level of effectiveness think that their administrators provide professional development, feedback, and resources effectively, while teachers with lower ratings are less confident in their administrators’ ability to provide feedback, suggesting that targeted communications and resources for teachers at different ratings categories could be valuable.
- Nearly 90% of teachers say they understand the standards and expectations to which they are being held accountable.
Teacher voice has been essential to making the TEM succeed. In the early stages of TEM’s development, teachers helped create and structure this effective teacher evaluation model. MCS has been able to develop a system that identifies the qualities of an effective teacher and structures that help teachers improve, and engages continuous teacher voice. As a teacher who has seen the power of a rigorous evaluation, I hope state and district leaders nationwide will view this as a window into what’s working well and what needs further development, and use that to inform their own evaluation implementation processes.
Joy Singleton-Stevens, Ed.D., is a National Board Certified teacher in Memphis City Schools, a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow and co-author of the new report, Lessons from the Leading Edge: Teachers’ Views on the Impact of Evaluation Reform.