Ascending the ELPS to Excellence in Your District's Teacher Evaluation

Article excerpt

In a district with well-trained evaluators and an effectively monitored evaluation system, most teachers trust the validity of the process as well as their evaluators' ability to assess their performance objectively, Mr. Ribas points out. Moreover, administrators trust the teacher association to work with them on addressing issues of low performance.

I HAVE DEALT with teacher evaluation as a teacher, a teacher association officer, a vice principal, a principal, and an assistant superintendent for personnel. Through these experiences I have learned that an effective systemwide program of supervision and evaluation can be developed only if district leaders (representing the school committee, the administration, and the teacher association) carefully attend to the ELPS (the educational, legal, public relations, and social/emotional components of the process). For three years Brookline has carefully assessed and revised its supervision and evaluation system based on the ELPS. The result is a system that is significantly more effective in improving the quality of teaching throughout the district. In the 1999-2000 school year, the ELPS program has been expanded to six Massachusetts school districts. It will be presented to Virginia public school administrators at a Virginia Department of Education conference in August 2000.

Developing a system of this type can seem more daunting than climbing the Alps. Many districts that are displeased with the effectiveness of their present evaluation systems move in costly and time-consuming directions that do little to increase effectiveness. For example, districts often start by developing new written procedures. In most cases, this is unnecessary because the district's evaluation procedures already include most or all the necessary components. Instead, the problems are caused by inadequate implementation and training. This article should enable your district to improve your supervision and evaluation in a cost-effective way by focusing on using your present curriculum and evaluation documents in a program that attends to all four of the ELPS.

The Educational Process And Standards

The primary goal of supervision and evaluation is educational improvement. Evaluation systems are typically designed to improve student achievement and attitude and teachers' professional performance and fulfillment. Recent education reform initiatives in Massachusetts, Virginia, and other states have focused on the development of standards for teaching and student performance, to be used as the objective basis for evaluating teaching. In Massachusetts each district has adopted principles of effective teaching (standards for instruction) and curriculum frameworks (standards for curriculum) based on state standards.

A district's supervision and evaluation process should perform two educational functions. First, it should work with teachers formatively to improve teacher performance on the district's standards of instruction, with the ultimate goal of improving student performance on the district's curriculum standards. Second, it should summatively assess teacher performance as measured against the district's articulated standards for curriculum and instruction. The educational component is the most important of the ELPS. However, the educational component of supervision and evaluation can be successful only if a district effectively attends to the legal, public relations, and social/emotional components as well.

The Legal Process and Standards

Most states have laws that require the evaluation of all public school teachers. The labor laws and contracts governing teacher evaluation usually use the legal standard 'just cause' or 'good cause' as the procedural requirement for recommending the dismissal of teachers who have professional teacher status or tenure. The procedures set forth in most teacher evaluation documents are designed to be consistent with these standards. …