Historically, teacher evaluation in Chicago has fallen short on two crucial fronts: It has not provided administrators with measures that differentiated among strong and weak teachers -- in fact, 93 percent of teachers were rated as Excellent or Superior -- and it has not provided teachers with useful feedback they could use to improve their instruction.
Chicago is not unique -- teacher evaluation systems across the country have experienced the exact same problems.Recent national policy has emphasized overhauling these systems to include multiple measures of teacher performance, such as student outcomes, and structuring the evaluations so they are useful from both talent management and teacher professional development perspectives. Principals and teachers need an evaluation system that provides teachers with specific, practice-oriented feedback they can use to improve their instruction and school leaders need to be able to identify strong and weak teachers. Required to act by a new state law and building off lessons learned from an earlier pilot of an evidence-based observation tool, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) rolled out its new teacher evaluation system -- Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago's Students (REACH Students) -- in the 2012-13 school year.
The REACH system seeks to provide a measure of individual teacher effectiveness that can simultaneously support instructional improvement. It incorporates teacher performance ratings based on multiple classroom observations together with student growth measured on two different types of assessments. While the practice of using classroom observations as an evaluation tool is not completely new, REACH requires teachers and administrators to conceptualize classroom observations more broadly as being part of instructional improvement efforts as well as evaluation; evaluating teachers based on student test score growth has never happened before in the district.
REACH implementation was a massive undertaking. It required a large-scale investment of time and energy from teachers, administrators, CPS central office staff, and the teachers union. District context played an important role and provided additional challenges as the district was introducing other major initiatives at the same time as REACH. Furthermore, the school year began with the first teacher strike in CPS in over 25 years. Teacher evaluation was one of several contentious points in the protracted negotiation, and the specific issue of using student growth on assessments to evaluate teachers received considerable coverage in the media.
This report focuses on the perceptions and experiences of teachers and administrators during the first year of REACH implementation, which was in many ways a particularly demanding year. These experiences can be helpful to CPS and to other districts across the country as they work to restructure and transform teacher evaluation.
- Successful Strategy: Teacher and administrators find the observation process useful for improving instruction.
- Observation: Teachers are hesitant about the use of student growth on assessments to evaluate their classroom performance.
- Observation: Communication with teachers is an area for improvement; administrators want support on coaching and providing useful feedback.
- Challenge: 66% of administrators agreed or strongly agreed that the new evaluation system took too much time.