Academic journal article Language Arts

Teacher Performance Assessments in Chicago and Beyond

Academic journal article Language Arts

Teacher Performance Assessments in Chicago and Beyond

Article excerpt

This month's Conversation Currents is about teacher performance assessments. In the past few years, almost every state in the nation has implemented some form of performance assessment to evaluate teachers. This caused us to wonder, What can we learn from these early evaluative models? How are they taking shape? What can we do to improve them? What can teachers learn with them? To help answer these questions, we asked John Barker, Chief Accountability Officer for Chicago Public Schools' (CPS) Office of Accountability, and Mark Conley, professor at the University of Memphis, to discuss teacher performance assessments.

John Barker brings to CPS his experience with the challenges of an urban school district through his work in Memphis as both Chief of Staffto the district's superintendent and as head of Research, Evaluation, Assessment, and Student Information for five years. In Memphis, Barker oversaw the district's Data Dashboard, which measures progress against the district's strategic goals. Barker holds a PhD in Education and Human Development, a master's degree in Public Policy, and comes to Chicago as a nationally recognized thought leader in public education. He has served on the graduate faculty of the College of Education at the University of Memphis and brings nearly 20 years of professional experience in education to Chicago Public Schools.

Mark Conley is a professor at the University of Memphis in Tennessee. He conducts research on teacher education policy and practice, adolescent literacy, assessment, tutoring via face-to- face and computer-mediated artificial intelligence, all within interdisciplinary contexts. Prior to moving to Tennessee, he was an associate professor at Michigan State University. Conley often collaborates with school districts, including the Memphis City School District, to develop programs to assist students as they become literate. In addition, he is currently a co-investigator for the Center for the Study of Adult Literacy.

This excerpted conversation was recorded on July 19, 2013, and has been edited for publication. The full conversation is available as a podcast at podcasts.

Language Arts: Can you just tell us a little bit about your role and what you see teacher performance assessment as being in that role.

John: I'm Chief of Accountability for Chicago Public Schools, and in that role, I oversee several of our offices and units within the department and within our shop here. Among the various components that we have, I focus on performance data and policy. (We have a lot of accountability issues that we measure and communicate to stakeholders.) But what we also have is a very rich and robust assessment department.

The assessment department has taken responsibility for developing what I think is probably the gold standard for teacher performance (we call them performance tasks) as a component of the overall teacher evaluation system. In overseeing that, I have had the pleasure of integrating some of the thoughts that I've brought from my former work in Memphis, where I headed up Research Evaluation Assessment for five years and then Chief of Staffto the superintendent for a year. I want to ensure that Chicago's work is absolutely at the leading edge as far as teacher evaluation, and I look forward to talking a little bit more about that and making sure that the story here gets told, because there is some really, really exciting work going on in Chicago.

Mark: I first got to know John about six years ago when I moved to Memphis. I have worked with urban school systems for over 30 years now. My work is focused on teacher training as well as working with students who are experiencing literacy struggles. John and I got together working on the Memphis Literacy Corps, which was the largest tutoring program using college-age tutors that I've ever encountered. I'm also involved in teacher performance assessment from inside teacher education in the university. …

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