Years-Long Effort Finally Leads to Revamped Teacher Evaluation

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Teacher teaching

photo by Christina Rutter

Then: 2005 – 2012

For years, the decades-old teacher evaluation checklist was considered useless by teachers and principals alike. Yet agreement on its replacement was slow in coming. Beginning in 2005, a joint CPS – CTU task force spent three years working off and on to develop a pilot program based on Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, a rubric of effective practices that measures the quality of teachers’ lessons, classroom management and instruction.

Despite positive reviews of a 2008 pilot, the model was never adopted system-wide. Then, in 2010, new state legislation requiring the use of student performance metrics in teacher evaluation revived the effort to update the CPS process. The result: Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago’s Students (REACH), a modified version of the Danielson framework combined with value-added student growth metrics and adopted by CPS in 2012. Thirty percent of a teacher’s rating would now be based on student growth, with the remaining 70 percent based on principal observation. The CTU was unhappy that student test scores were used to evaluate teachers and included it in the list of grievances leading to the CTU strike that year.

See CPS to roll out new teacher evaluations, Catalyst March 30, 2012, and Teacher evaluation program shows promising results, Catalyst June 15, 2010.


Teachers and principals generally see REACH as an improvement and believe it will lead to better instruction and improved student learning. But teachers are increasingly dissatisfied with it, according to a recent report by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. Most teachers think the process takes more effort than it is worth and that it relies too heavily on growth in student test scores.

See Take 5: Teacher evaluation study, Catalyst November 2014; and Teacher Evaluation in Practice: Year 2 Teacher and Administrator Perceptions of REACH, University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research November 2014.


In CPS, student growth measurements currently are based on NWEA and REACH tests. A key question is whether CPS will stick with both assessments as it implements the new, statewide PARCC. In any event, expect some continuing frustration.

See Teachers: More prep for PARCC test, but better than ISAT, Catalyst February 2015.


  • Dusty

    I strongly disagree with the statement, “Teachers and principals generally see REACH as an improvement and believe it will lead to better instruction and improved student learning.” The reality is that principals generally agree that the burden created by having to evaluate teachers 2-4 times a year, with pre and post observation conferences, with preparation for these conferences often being long and tedious. Proof of this fact is the amount of evaluations that were botched because of timeline inconsistencies.

    Across the district, teachers feel that the new system is as arbitrary as the checklist when their administrator has no similar experience or expertise to their own, yet is made to evaluate them. If we ever get to see a clear picture of district-wide data, we will see that younger, untenured teachers receive higher ratings than their tenured colleagues. We will see that grade school teachers receive higher ratings than high school (a result of the original intent of the framework.) We will see that teachers in the toughest teaching conditions receive the lowest scores (and this will result in good teachers abandoning the schools and kids that need them most.) And we may see that activist teachers are slammed, even if they’re highly awarded and respected by colleagues. If a principal does have a quality novice teacher, the administration must evaluate them in the top two categories so that the teacher becomes tenured and is retained according to layoff rules. Compound this reality with “student-based-budgeting” that means a novice teacher can be 20-30 thousand dollars less than an experienced teacher, and you have a recipe for pushing out quality tenured teachers that have ties in the communities.

    I had the opportunity to talk with Charlotte Danielson several years ago at the ASCD conference in Philadelphia. When I asked her how she felt about the way CPS was implementing her framework, she said the only right way to do it was to eliminate the score element, evaluate an entire school at once, and for the process to take 3-yrs. Danielson’s framework is a great tool for growth, but the process by which it has been implemented, however, embitters teachers and overburdens administration.