Toward a Teacher Evaluation in an American School District

by Sadiq A. Abdullahi

This month, Open Book examines the instrument used to evaluate teachers. Teacher evaluation is critical to student academic achievement, but some teachers are concerned that the tool might be used as a weapon for termination.

The school reform movement of the 1980s and 1990s has led to various school accountability requirements. The federal government education plan and agenda have forced state and local governments, local school boards, and school districts to reexamine all aspects of educational and non-educational activities and programs. School districts are expected to restructure if they want to qualify for the needed federal dollars.

Since 2001, there have been serious debates and discussions on various levels about how to increase student academic achievement and how to prepare students to compete in the global economy. The ultimate goal is the overall improvement of teaching and learning and thus, the enhancement of the teaching profession.

Florida, one of the last states in the country in school funding, is attempting to improve teaching and the assessment of students’ work, as well as the improvement in school administration, curriculum and teacher preparation. The state has empowered school districts to devise an assessment and evaluation system to monitor how teachers teach and students learn, and how students are assessed. The same tool could also be used for other areas. However, the focus seems to be on teacher performance. The new instrument has been received with mixed feelings by both administrators and teachers because of the paper work and time involved.

In 2007, thirty two schools in the Instructional Performance Evaluation and Growth System (IPEGS) were part of a pilot program to determine whether the new instrument will effectively measure what teachers teach and how teachers assess their students. The system is intended to provide a balance between structure and flexibility in determining how a teacher performs in the classroom. The goal is to support the continuous growth and development of teachers by monitoring, analyzing, and applying data such as interim assessment, Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), and teacher-constructed tests to determine whether that teacher is competent or not, and whether that teacher should recommended for continued employment.

The IPEGS has four main purposes. The first is to improve the quality of instruction by ensuring accountability for classroom or program performance. The second is to contribute to successful achievement of the goals and objectives defined in the vision, mission, and goals of MDCPS. The third is to provide a basis for instructional improvement through productive instructional personnel appraisal and professional growth. The fourth is to provide a collaborative process that promotes self-growth, instructional effectiveness, and improvement of overall job performance. It has eight performance indicators: knowledge of Learners, instructional planning, instructional delivery and engagement, assessment, leaner progress, communication, professionalism, and learning environment.

Assessment and evaluation are integral part of teaching and learning. They are critical elements of the education process. The instrument is designed to improve teacher and student performance, and thus heightening the status of the teaching profession.

There are five levels of rubric used to assess and evaluate how well teachers use the performance standards. The first level is exemplary – the teacher optimizes and is highly effective. The second level is superior – the teacher promotes learning and uses a variety of approaches. The third level is proficient – the teacher demonstrates content area knowledge and engaged learners in appropriate strategies. The fourth level is developing – the teacher attempts to use a variety of appropriate strategies but often is ineffective. The fifth level is unsatisfactory – the teacher lacks knowledge and does not academically engage learners.

The goal of any performance evaluation is to review performance for a determined period, highlight the successes and discuss areas for improvement. The result of the performance evaluation is the determination of whether someone is suited to the position they have, or whether they need to improve their knowledge or skills or be promoted to a more challenging role.

A performance evaluation does not necessary guarantee effective evaluation or the competence of a teacher. Other multiple evaluative data sources such as student evaluation, peer evaluation, independent evaluation are also needed to show competence. All competent teachers must have content knowledge, pedagogical (how to teach) content-knowledge, and knowledge of the environment (students are and the learning styles).

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