Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Lessons Learned: Three Lessons Emerge from Los Angeles Unified School District's Implementation of a New System for Teacher Evaluation, Growth, and Development

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Lessons Learned: Three Lessons Emerge from Los Angeles Unified School District's Implementation of a New System for Teacher Evaluation, Growth, and Development

Article excerpt

Teachers matter. They are the most important school-based influence on student achievement, and research suggests that having a particularly good teacher will positively affect students' current academic performance and their future success. So, it's no surprise that researchers, policy makers, and practitioners want to know how to measure teacher effectiveness and how to help teachers improve.

Policy makers across the country are proposing and passing legislation that requires states and districts to establish new systems of teacher evaluation and support, and many districts are working to implement such systems in ways that will allow administrators to identify and learn from the best teachers and to provide targeted support and intervention to help teachers with their growth and development needs. Such systems commonly require multiple measures of performance, including classroom observations, measures of teachers' contributions to their students' performance on standardized tests, and surveys of parents and/or students. These new evaluation and support systems are complex and often require huge shifts in how administrators and teachers think about and engage in performance evaluation. Policy makers advocating these new programs say they will better measure a teacher's "true" level of effectiveness and provide a mechanism for targeting supports to help teachers continually improve, but the rush to implement them may undermine their potential benefits.

This article is coauthored by researchers engaged in a study of the Los Angeles Unified School District's new Educator Growth and Development Cycle (EGDC), and the district's executive director of talent management, who is responsible for implementation and long-range strategy of the EGDC. After spending a year on research and design, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) piloted most of the EGDC for the first time in the 2011-12 school year, focusing on a small subset of volunteering school administrators and teachers. The pilot year involved multiple tools and activities including:

* Teacher self-assessments and lesson planning;

* Classroom observations by a site administrator and second (external) observer, using protocols aligned to LAUSD's Teaching and Learning Framework (adapted from Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching);

* Pre- and postobservation conferences between teachers and observers;

* An online platform for teachers and administrators to report observation notes and ratings;

* Stakeholder feedback surveys of students and parents; and

* Teacher-level, grade and subject-level and schoolwide value-added measures (known as Academic Growth over Time [AGT]).

In addition, future iterations of the program will include a greater focus on teachers' individual growth planning and professional development activities targeted to needs identified during the evaluation process.

LAUSD's purpose in the pilot year was to begin to introduce the EGDC to a subset of district employees and learn from the successes and challenges that arose during this pilot year in order to position the system to productively scale up over time. During pilot implementation of the EGDC, the external research team collected extensive data, including surveys of participating teachers, administrators and second observers, along with interviews with 11 administrators and focus groups with 18 teachers in five case study schools. Researchers also collected data from interviews with five district leaders instrumental in the development and initial implementation of the EGDC. The intent of this external evaluation was to help LAUSD identify strengths and weaknesses of the program as implemented and to make recommendations for future iterations of the reform.

Based on these data, we believe that the EGDC pilot has allowed the district to learn valuable lessons that can inform future scale-up--and three in particular are important for federal, state, and local policy makers. …

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