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Eddy’s News

Student Growth and Teacher Evaluation

I was encouraged when I recently read that TEA and “various teacher organizations” came to an agreement on the meaning and importance of the inclusion of a student growth component to a balanced evaluation system. It is crucial to the health of an evaluation system that everyone involved understand and support the entire process.

 

To summarize the concerns, teacher evaluation in Texas districts is a locally-determined process with certain minimum requirements. The Agency has a recommended evaluation system, T-TESS, which most school districts have adopted. Scheduled to be implemented in the 2017-2018 school year, and with a recent option to waiver full implementation for a pilot program, is a requirement to include a measure of student growth in the evaluation process.

 

TEA has, until recently, defined student growth measurement under four options:

  • Student learning objectives (SLOs),

  • Portfolios,

  • District pre- and post-tests, and

  • Value-add measures

The point of contention has been that by listing these four options, unintentional limits may have been placed on the local control districts have on concluding their best-fitting model for considering student growth.

 

The updated phrasing from the Agency states that “districts are free to adopt and implement any student growth measure and model they choose.” The linked document here is a good read that goes on to clearly reinforce the philosophy behind including student growth in a teacher evaluation system. Some key quotes that I would call out are:

 

  • “Although it’s called student growth, it is really about teacher growth

  • Student growth is not the end in itself – the key to a meaningful experience with student growth measures is the ability to translate the student growth outcomes into feedback on pedagogical practices

  • In contrast to an observation, which captures impact in a snapshot of time, student growth captures impact over an entire course

  • Honest assessment of pedagogy, sincere reflection on the approach to planning, and a commitment to adjustment are the best ways to improve student growth

  • Ratings are less important than the process of professional growth”

 

We have been consulting with TEA throughout the pilot and initial years of the new teacher evaluation system to ensure that we are properly poised to support Texas districts. The removal of the four options for measuring student growth in lieu of an open-ended statement allowing local interpretation addresses what is, for the teacher in me, a reaffirming move. It frees the conversation up to focus on processes that jive with the work educators are currently doing to improve student mastery of content and how those might be incorporated into the evaluation cycle.

 

Strive is being developed with the tools districts will need to customize the inclusion of student growth in their teacher evaluation system. We have been deliberate in our design to emphasize process-oriented student growth options. Our Portfolio feature that will live in Aware and connect to Strive will allow teachers to monitor student knowledge and skill levels at any time during the school year through teacher-designed skill profiles and filtered Aware assessments. These Portfolios will NOT include any calculations, so they cannot be used to develop misleading measures of growth or progress. They will instead allow teachers and administrators to make holistic, qualitative determinations of the pedagogical impact on student learning throughout the school year.


As Strive rolls out and we support districts across Texas with implementation, I will be encouraging folks to consider keeping the sixteen T-TESS Dimensions rated independently versus summarizing them under one aggregate score. It is my professional opinion that this practice, coupled with a faithful student growth analysis that focuses on teacher reflection and action-planning, will foster the kind of positive professional development planning that reveals real and lasting results for student - and teacher - growth.