Chicago, Elgin, Rockford get scrutiny on teacher evaluation

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Three Illinois school districts – Chicago, Elgin and Rockford – were among 12 studied for a new report that calls for an overhaul of teacher evaluation, a long-standing issue across the country that school districts have made little progress in changing. The report was sponsored by The New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit that works to ensure high-needs students get outstanding teachers. In Illinois, researchers surveyed 7,482 teachers and 184 principals and examined 28,000 evaluation records.

Three Illinois school districts – Chicago, Elgin and Rockford – were among 12 studied for a new report that calls for an overhaul of teacher evaluation, a long-standing issue across the country that school districts have made little progress in changing.

The report was sponsored by The New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit that works to ensure high-needs students get outstanding teachers. In Illinois, researchers surveyed 7,482 teachers and 184 principals and examined 28,000 evaluation records.

Their major findings:

  • Using current evaluation methods, nearly all teachers are rated good or great
  • Excellence in teaching goes unrecognized because every teacher appears to be excellent
  • A substandard evaluation system results in inadequate feedback and limits the potential for professional development
  • There is no special attention given to new teachers
  • Poor performance goes unaddressed

“Put simply, [school districts] fail to distinguish great teaching from good, good from fair and fair from poor,” the report states.

Tim Daly, president of The New Teacher Project, says that administrators can often be hesitant to give out poor reviews. In many cases, they feel unqualified to review teachers or are afraid of alienating their staff and losing the support of the district.

Putting aside past differences with the New Teacher Project, the American Federation of Teachers applauded the study and endorsed its recommendations, which include:

  • Adopting a more comprehensive performance evaluation system
  • Training evaluators on how to use that system effectively
  • Creating a dismissal policy that is both less forgiving of poorly-performing teachers and more humane to educators being removed from their positions
  • Making evaluation systems a part of determining teacher assignment and compensation

Chicago is in the middle of a four-year pilot program on teacher merit pay that includes performance measures as well as extra professional development. And the “Fresh Start” schools where the Chicago Teachers Union is a reform partner use peer evaluation.