Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Putting the Value in Teacher Evaluation: When Evaluation Systems Are Focused on Improving Practice in Addition to Measuring Performance, They Yield Powerful Results

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Putting the Value in Teacher Evaluation: When Evaluation Systems Are Focused on Improving Practice in Addition to Measuring Performance, They Yield Powerful Results

Article excerpt

Teacher evaluation systems should be linked to professional development if they are to provide the crucial feedback teachers need to analyze their work and receive targeted support. That's one of the goals of TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement.

Managed and supported by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), TAP was introduced in 1999 to attract, motivate, and retain talent in teaching by providing opportunities for career advancement, professional development, evaluation and performance-based compensation. Each of TAP's four elements reinforces the others to form an interconnected support system for educators with the ultimate goal of improving learning gains for all students.

A powerful dimension of TAP's support structure is the cadre of teacher leaders TAP develops in each school, made up of master and mentor teachers. Master and mentor teachers, along with the principal, drive instruction in the school by analyzing student data, creating achievement plans, leading professional development and evaluating and supporting other teachers. Because active collaboration is essential, teachers must vote to implement the reform on their campus. TAP is currently at work in some 380 schools across the U.S., involving more than 20,000 teachers and 200,000 students.

TAP's approach to teacher evaluation has two equally important goals: accurately measuring teacher performance and improving teacher skills through individualized, intensive support.

Those goals are connected by the research-based TAP Teaching Skills, Knowledge, and Responsibilities Performance Standards. These rubrics are broad and detailed enough to capture essential elements of teaching and to increase improvement. Teachers are scored using a 1-5 scale on indicators of effective instructional practice crossing three domains: instruction, designing and planning instruction, and the learning environment. A score of 1 is unsatisfactory, 3 is proficient, and a 5 is exemplary. At the end of each year, teachers also receive scores on additional indicators in a fourth domain--responsibilities--that recognizes teachers for their efforts to improve teaching.

TAP's evaluation system includes multiple classroom observations each year by multiple trained and certified evaluators, including principals or other administrators, master teachers, and mentor teachers. Announced observations are preceded and followed by in-depth teacher conferences during which the evaluator and teacher examine the lesson to identify a strength (area of reinforcement), a weakness (area of refinement), and a specific plan for improvement. Since evaluators know the teachers and coach them on a regular basis, they have a more robust context for selecting areas for reinforcement and refinement after observations. Furthermore, they have more opportunities to provide teachers with intensive follow-up support in those areas after the observations.

One of the most important results from this process is that educators build a common language around what effective teaching looks like and recalibrate their expectations to create significant room for growth for even the most accomplished teachers. By defining proficiency as a 3 on a 1 to 5 scale, nearly every teacher is provided with stretch goals and participates in a process of continuous improvement.

In addition to scores on a teacher's classroom practice--segmented as skills, knowledge, and responsibilities, or SKR--each teacher receives a value-added score that measures the teacher's effect on student learning growth. When teachers demonstrate strong instructional skills as measured by the TAP Teaching Standards, their students show higher academic growth regardless of previous achievement and socioeconomic status. (National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, 2012, p. 12).

The TAP Teaching Standards and methods for observation represent a major departure from the "meets/does not meet" approach that characterizes most evaluation systems. …

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