Over the past school year I have been working with a dedicated group of professionals in the educational realm around the controversial topic of student improvement and its role in the educator evaluation system. This is not the forum for in-depth discussion about what, specifically, we did; interested parties are encouraged to visit https://egov.delaware.gov/pmc/ and scroll through the calendar in the Education, Office of the Secretary, Agency page to view our meeting agendas and minutes. However, I’d like to encourage my readers to consider making their voices heard around one particular piece of legislation that directly reflects the recommendations of the sub-committee.
House Bill 399 would put a number of our recommendations into law, which is exciting for me because we spent a great deal of time as a team working towards consensus on how to really keep the student achievement part focused on students, and on authentic methods of supporting and demonstrating student improvement in our classrooms and schools. In this post I’ll briefly describe the salient changes and how you can voice the impact these changes will have in YOUR world.
To avoid edu-speak, here are a few quick descriptions of some terms I’ll probably use. DPAS II is the name of the evaluation system we use in Delaware, and all teachers and specialists are evaluated under this system. There are 5 components to DPAS, one of which is the student improvement portion. This is called Component V, and it is the main area being changed through this legislation. Under DPAS, teachers and specialists receive at least one observation each year, resulting in a conversation with a credentialed observer and a form documenting the observation, conversation, and any recommendations or commendations that arose during the process. This form is called a Formative Feedback document, and on this document the teacher or specialist is assigned a performance level based on the evidence available during the time of observation and conversation. Performance levels exist in multiple criteria throughout each of the first four components and lead to an overall performance level in each component. At the end of at least every two years, the Formative Feedback documents are compiled and evidence collected around the two non-observable components (IV and V) for the purpose of a Summative Evaluation.
Currently, under Component V, teachers and specialists are divided into three groups based on discipline. Classroom teachers are generally grouped into two categories with specialists in the third. In each of those three categories, there are measures around which goals are set for demonstrating student improvement. All three sets of measures are designed to lend some type of standardization to Component V. The first two sets of measures are tests of some sort (for the most part; I fully admit I do not have every single assessment method for every single discipline and grade level memorized, but they can be found on the Department of Education’s website). The third set of measures are growth goals.
The proposed legislation, HB 399, seeks to simplify Component V, make it valuable to educators in and out of the classroom, focus it on the needs of the individual schools and students, and maintain a level of integrity in the system while also giving teachers and specialists a more active role in their evaluation process. Under this proposal, Component V will be broken into two parts for teachers and specialists alike. One half will involve some sort of uniform measure that the teacher or specialist would choose, and it will demonstrate student improvement as a result of the teacher or specialist performing regular job duties (i.e., teaching, speech therapy, counseling). This uniform measure will need to be approved by the administrator working with the teacher or specialist, but it could include such things as the Smarter Balanced Assessment, discipline-specific pre- and post-tests, authentic assessments such as portfolios, end-of-pathway certifications such as Auto Mechanic or Veterinary Technician, and industry-aligned measures for specialists with professional organizations. These measures will be available for any teacher or specialist to use statewide only after approval by the Department of Education through its current alternative measure submission and approval process.
The other half of Component V will be based on goal-setting between the administrator and the teacher or specialist. Every school, be it a traditional public school or a charter school, has some sort of vision and plan for moving that school and its students forward in their educational endeavors. Under this model, the teacher or specialist will identify a goal directly linked to that plan and, with administrator conversation and agreement, will set that goal to directly impact the success of students. For instance, if my school had a goal of improving attendance for a group of students, I would write a goal around mentoring some of those students, providing a safe space and caring adult to encourage the students, communicate with families, and find ties in the larger community to get those students to school and keep them there. If a teacher or specialist is considered novice or is receiving support for improvement through the evaluation system, the administrator will select that goal. If a teacher or specialist is considered experienced and satisfactory, the administrator and teacher/specialist will write the goal together, and in the event that agreement cannot be reached each will contribute one goal for this half of Component V.
There are other pieces of the legislation that are important to understand, but this is the main area where I feel voices need to be heard. I encourage you to please contact State Representatives and Senators with a message about how you could use this new Component V to really make a difference in your profession. Give a specific example, such as I have above. These legislators truly want to hear from teachers and specialists, and it is vital that we not miss this opportunity to speak while they are listening. At this link http://legis.delaware.gov/ you can find information about the bill as well as who the Representatives and Senators are; you do not need to contact just your legislator, but please consider making the connection!