Academic journal article Planning and Changing

The Effectiveness of Special Education Teacher Evaluation Processes: Perspectives from Elementary Principals

Academic journal article Planning and Changing

The Effectiveness of Special Education Teacher Evaluation Processes: Perspectives from Elementary Principals

Article excerpt

Teacher supervision and evaluation are important responsibilities of school principals. These processes support teachers' ongoing professional development, and evidence on teacher performance is needed to reach legally defensible decisions on continuing employment (Danielson & McGreal, 2000). However, teacher evaluation historically has not been fully effective in promoting these outcomes, particularly with special education teachers. Significant changes have occurred in curriculum standards, student learning expectations, instructional practices, and assessment methods in recent years, prompted not only by research on effective teaching and learning practices but also by federal reform mandates. For example, states applying to the federal Race to the Top (RttT) grant competition were required to restructure their teacher and principal evaluation policies, ensuring that evaluation systems "take into account data on student growth as a significant factor" (U.S. Department of Education, 2009, p. 9). RttT funding was awarded to 21 states and the District of Columbia, so teacher evaluation policies have been revised in numerous states across the United States. The federal government has influenced school districts' placement and instruction of disabled students, mandating that students with special needs be educated in the least restrictive environment (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act [IDEIA], 2004). The 2004 IDEIA reauthorization set the stage for an approach to special education eligibility and school improvement called Response to Intervention (RTI) (Cummings, Atkins, Allison, & Cole, 2008), that required improved outcomes for all students through the use of tiered levels of instruction for students with varied skill deficits. RTI has expanded the role of special ed- ucation teachers within their schools, because of their specialized "knowledge of assessment, instruction and individualized interventions" (Cummings et al., 2008, p. 24). The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC, 2008) reports that special education teachers should serve as team members in the problem-solving process for RTI supports.

The school principal typically is responsible for the evaluation of general and special education teachers. Yet, school district teacher evaluation processes and tools often are designed for teachers in general education classrooms and may not fully incorporate the roles and responsibilities of a broad classification of teachers who work with students with an array of disabilities, including but not limited to learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, mental retardation, and pervasive developmental disorders. Special education teachers have unique responsibilities that involve compliance with IDEIA regulations, including testing and placement of students into special education services, communicating with parents, and developing and monitoring Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). In fact, some estimate that only 16% of special education teachers' time involves instruction, while the rest of their duties involve IDEIA issues (Vannest & Hagan-Burke, 2010). The problem is that special education teachers may be faced with two challenges; they may be evaluated under models and performance criteria that do not fully consider their unique roles, and their evaluators may not have extensive training in special education. These factors are essential at the elementary school level, because decisions regarding students' special education staffing typically occur in the elementary grades.

State statutes may provide little guidance for the evaluation of special education teachers; for example, evaluation policies in the state of Illinois, where this study was conducted, contain no specific provisions for special education teachers (Illinois General Assembly, 2010). In order to grow as professionals, special education teachers need effective feedback and support. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of research specific to the evaluation process for special education teachers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.