Common Core and teacher evaluation reform

February 7th, 2013

On Tuesday, we attended a presentation and panel discussion hosted by the Center for American Progress about the impact that Common Core assessments will have on teacher evaluation and professional development. Since so many of our readers are teachers who use and will be affected by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), here are some highlights from the conference. 

Peter Youngs, an associate professor of education at Michigan State University, began by presenting his report “Using Teacher Evaluation Reform and Professional Development to Support Common Core Assessments.” First noting there there are already two multi-state consortia that are currently developing student assessments rooted in the Common Core State Standards, Youngs wondered how these student tests (and the Common Core Standards in general) will affect the assessment of teachers—and thus how teachers will implement the Common Core into their classrooms. 

In the past, Youngs noted, teacher evaluation had failed to evolve with sweeping standards-based reform, instead tending to rely on evaluating a rather narrow range of teaching practices during classroom observations. Newer reforms seek to measure teacher performance with a number of criteria: content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, student testing, and value-added models, and, in some cases, student reviews. Many of these newer evaluation methods could be used to measure teachers teaching to the Common Core State Standards, Youngs said, but only if the necessary support is provided by school districts. In particular, Youngs recommended that schools utilize school-based instructional coaches to provide ongoing professional development to teachers as they adapt to the CCSS; provide proper training to administrators who are in charge of assessing teacher performance; use multiple years of value-added model data in evaluating individual teachers; and emphasize to teachers the need to keep up with the evolving “standard of care” as new pedagogical approaches, learning theories, and technologies are made available. 

After his presentation, Youngs was joined by John Stewart (Project COACH, Hamilton County Department of Education), Thomas Toch (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), and Rob Weil (American Federation of Teachers). Though the four panelists did not always agree on the specifics, there were some broad points of consensus:

  • It is going to take a lot of work to prepare teachers adequately to teach to the level demanded by the Common Core State Standards. Evaluations, if used well, should help in this process and provide teachers support, but many generic evaluations or even value-added assessments currently used don’t do this.
  • Districts need to provide support to teachers as they evaluate them; otherwise, the evaluations are useless. Teacher assessment shows where teachers’ strengths and weaknesses may be. It is important that the professional development and other training that teachers receive take this into account.
  • In general, teachers appreciate being evaluated because it shows them that people view what they do as important—but teachers only like it when they receive feedback.
  • Policymakers should realize that the implementation of the CCSS and related assessments over the next few years will be messy; while accountability of teachers during this time should not be dismissed, policymakers should be prepared for a dip in students’ assessment scores simply because the CCSS tests will be much more rigorous. 

For more on teacher evaluation reform and the Common Core, read Peter Youngs’s report here

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