Today, Secretary Duncan announced that ED is offering states flexibility around high stakes personnel decisions and double testing—a decision greatly influenced by educators’ voices.
His decision addresses two areas. First, states will be able to ask for an extra year beyond current plans for teacher evaluation systems before data from new assessments impacts personnel decisions for educators.
Second, during next school year (2013-2014), some schools will field test new assessments. ED will work with states to avoid double-testing students. Over-testing is a very real concern, and schools participating in the field test will receive the option to administer only one assessment in 2013-2014 to any given student— either the current statewide assessment or the field test.
Dan Brown, a Teaching Ambassador Fellow (TAF), interviewed Secretary Duncan on his decision.
Secretary Duncan’s decision doesn’t come out of the blue. In fact, it was significantly influenced by discussions with teachers around the country. As full-time TAFs, teachers on temporary release from our schools to bring teacher perspective to federal policy-makers, we were literally at the table— and consistently asked to provide educator voice to the high level discussions being held.
In the interest of hearing and elevating teachers’ voices, the 12 members of our TAF team (six full-time Fellows and six part-time Classroom Fellows) traveled to 34 states over the past year and held discussions with well over 4,000 teachers. Teachers, who are the actual implementers for these reforms, are uniquely positioned to offer candid, authentic advice about how to make these urgently needed reforms work best for students.
As Arne describes in the video, we heard from teachers over and over about the unprecedented level of change and reform going on throughout the country as states transition to new standards, new assessments, and new teacher evaluation systems.
Overwhelmingly, we heard support from teachers around the country for raising standards that will ensure students can compete in the global economy. At the same time however, we also heard widespread concern that teachers need time, models, and quality professional development to teach to the new standards effectively. In states where there is a strong commitment to collaboration, teachers feel more empowered, supported, and positive about the current state of reform efforts.
From our vantage point, we believe that the Department and Secretary Duncan are committed to learning from educators. This offer of flexibility reflects the Department’s responsiveness to teachers’ voices. Whether states request the flexibility or not, we hope that we all hear the needs expressed by teachers across the country to make this significant transition sustainably, with room and support for innovation and cycles of professional learning.
Cynthia Apalinski, Jennifer Bado-Aleman, Dan Brown, Kareen Borders, Lisa Clarke, and Marciano Gutierrez are the 2012-2013 Full-Time Teaching Ambassador Fellows at the U.S. Department of Education.
As a teacher, I have an axe to grind with how teachers are perceived by many folks outside the education system. Too often we are caricatured as either saviors or deadbeats, and both outsized images impoverish the discourse on how to improve education for all students.
As a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education— a teacher on release from my school for a year to help bring educator voice to the policy world— I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Secretary Duncan to pick his brain on perceptions of teachers and how he thinks we can improve them.
His answers, seen in the video below, touch in part on the recently released RESPECT Blueprint, a framework for elevating the teaching profession, developed over the past two years through discussions with thousands of educators.
America’s teachers earn our respect every day, doing some of this country’s toughest and most important work. Over the years, the demands on teachers have grown as standards rose and student needs multiplied. However, the teaching profession has not evolved to meet those growing demands.
Two years ago, active classroom teachers working temporarily at the U.S. Department of Education launched a national dialogue with their classroom colleagues to talk openly and honestly about the challenges and aspirations of America’s teachers.
Nearly 6,000 teachers from across the country weighed in through more than 360 roundtable discussions, online feedback and even social media. They talked about training, mentoring, evaluation, support and how they use time both in and out of the classroom. They discussed technology, school leadership and culture, the role of testing and the importance of a well-rounded curriculum. And they talked about the critical need to provide teachers with autonomy and the trust to do their job.
Today, the Department of Education released the result of this unprecedented national dialogue in a bold and visionary blueprint for reforming the teaching profession. Among other things, it calls for salaries to be competitive with professions like architecture, medicine and law, more support for novice teachers and more career opportunities for veterans.
The blueprint is called RESPECT – an acronym that stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching, and in conjunction with the launch the Department has re-launched our educator homepage to include new information about the RESPECT initiative, including:
In a decentralized educational system like ours, transforming the teaching profession will only succeed if it is led by educators at the local level and fully embraced by parents, students and community leaders. The RESPECT vision challenges all Americans to honor and value the men and women at the front of the classroom doing the hard work every day to ensure that our future is secure.
Teachers in this great country have long yearned for the opportunity to shape their own profession. Our forces have, as of late, been too often divided and unable to conquer. Now, for the first time in recent memory . . . a movement has emerged that offers precisely what is needed—teacher voice.
As a committed elementary PE teacher and concerned parent of school-aged children, a three-time National Board Certified Teacher, and a 2012 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education, my involvement with this movement has become a near obsession.
This week, the Obama Administration released the Blueprint for RESPECT, a plan for transforming teaching and leading. Specifically, it includes information about the process used to craft the vision, the research reviewed, and about a description of specific policies and programs that the Department intends to use to support educators. It also includes President Obama’s budget request for $5 billion to support RESPECT. Now that the RESPECT Blueprint is being released, there is much for teachers to be excited about.
For one, teachers love the possibility that they may be paid what they are worth.Despite public perceptions that teaching is a cushy job with summers off, I can personally assure you that the “many-teachers-work-two-jobs” rhetoric is grounded in reality. Another exciting improvement that RESPECT addresses is establishing career ladders that allow people to stay in the classroom without necessarily migrating to an administrative office. Perhaps now that ambitious teacher down the hall who’s been inspiring kids for years can be given the hybrid leadership role that allows her classroom gifts to remain on display while aspirations toward advancement are simultaneously satisfied. Some forward-thinking school districts are already doing this. Why doesn’t everyone?
As a physical education instructor, I can tell you that bringing teacher preparation programs into focus is equally as exciting. For too long the ranks of my coworkers have been populated with professional coaches looking for something to do in between games and practices. A serious effort toward cleaning up teacher prep programs, as discussed in the Blueprint for RESPECT, could mean more disciples of “The New PE” with roots in Naperville, Ill. And maybe more schools like Red Hawk Elementary, in Erie, Colo., would pop up, where movement has been seamlessly woven into the very fabric of this high-achieving school.
But perhaps more significant than all of these factors, the creation of the Blueprint for RESPECT has shown that teacher voice can and should be given a seat at the table.
As the document states–and to which I can personally attest–this entire project has come from engaging over 5,700 educators in 360 different discussions across the country. My own experiences vary as widely as a small roundtable in a humid Richmond high school library, to facilitating a conversation with a couple of hundred representatives from National Blue Ribbon Schools.
This document has taken on many forms prior to its most current status. It has been rewritten, revamped, retooled and refashioned, with each new iteration grounded heavily in teacher sentiment.
It is still unknown whether Congress will fund RESPECT, or even some part of it, but the fact that this movement, led by teachers, has made its way to the Oval Office, underscores the fact that much like doctors, lawyers, architects and other highly respected professionals, we teachers have been given a chance to help shape our own profession. Let’s seize it!
President Barack Obama, with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, honors 2013 National Teacher of the Year Jeff Charbonneau, State Teachers of the Year, and Principals of the Year, in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 23, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Twelve years ago, Zillah High School in Washington state had no engineering classes. The science curriculum was lagging behind, and students had to go off campus to take technology classes.
Jeff Charbonneau, who returned to his hometown 11 years ago to teach at Zillah High, was determined to change that. And he did. Science enrollment is way up. Kids are graduating with college-level science credits. The school expects to have to hire more teachers now to meet the demand.
Jeff teaches chemistry, physics, and engineering, and works to create accessible, interactive lessons that help convince kids that the science classes most students consider hardest are worth diving in to, not running away from. But President Obama said that it’s not just his work in the classroom that distinguishes Jeff.
“He started an outdoors club,” President Obama said. “He brought his passion to the drama program. He’s even helping out other schools.” Because of Jeff, hundreds of students all over Washington are now participating in high-skills robotics competitions and gaining valuable engineering experience.
“There’s nothing that Jeff will not try to give his students the best education in every respect,” President Obama said.
President Obama said that what’s true for Jeff is also true for the other state Teachers of the Year, who stood behind President Obama at today’s event.
They understand that their job is more than teaching subjects like reading or chemistry. They’re not just filling blackboards with numbers and diagrams. In classrooms across America, they’re teaching things like character and compassion and resilience and imagination. They’re filling young minds with virtues and values, and teaching our kids how to cooperate and overcome obstacles.
President Obama thanked Jeff and his fellow educators for their hard work and commitment to America’s young people.
What you do matters. It’s critical to our success as a country, but most importantly, it’s critical to those kids themselves. I cannot think of something more important than reaching that child who maybe came in uninspired, and suddenly, you’ve inspired them.
“Teaching is a profession and it should be treated like one,” President Obama said.
Educators like Jeff and everyone up here today, they represent the very best of America — committed professionals who give themselves fully to the growth and development of our kids. And with them at the front of the classroom and leading our schools, I am absolutely confident that our children are going to be prepared to meet the tests of our time and the tests of the future.
Megan Slack is deputy director of digital content for the White House Office of Digital Strategy
As Education Secretary Arne Duncan often says, budgets aren’t just numbers in a ledger – they are a reflection of our values. President Obama’s 2014 budget proposal, released today, demonstrates his belief in education as the engine that will keep America competitive in a global innovation economy and grow a thriving middle class.
The proposal builds on momentum for reform and protects the most vulnerable. Nowhere is this more true than in the president’s historic proposal to make high-quality preschool available to all four-year-olds.
The administration’s request for $71 billion in discretionary appropriations for education represents an increase of more than 4 percent over the previous year. Nearly three-quarters of that funding goes to financial aid for students in college, special education, and aid to schools with high numbers of children in poverty (Title I).
Early learning: Making quality preschool available for all 4-year-olds
President Obama has committed to a historic new investment in preschool education that supports universal access to high-quality preschool for all 4-year olds from low- and moderate-income families and creates an incentive for states to serve additional middle-class children.
The President’s budget request includes $1.3 billion in 2014 and $75 billion over 10 years in mandatory funding, along with $750 million for competitively awarded Preschool Development Grants and other funds.
President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposes significant new investments in areas where states and school districts face key implementation challenges from earlier investments such as Race to the Top and the Race to the Top-District competition, as well as continuing substantial investments in critical formula programs that support state and local reform efforts.
President Obama has called on all Americans to commit to at least one year of postsecondary education. Yet, for too many American students, high school is a time of disengagement that fails to put them on a path to college and career success. That’s why the Obama administration has laid out plans to redesign high schools and career and technical education (CTE).
Learn more about high school redesign and career readiness.
Strengthening Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education
Economists project strong growth in careers related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), but far too few American students are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career. The Obama administration proposes an aggressive STEM push that will improve the delivery and impact of STEM education.
The President’s plan to increase school safety and to decrease gun violence includes investments not only to prepare schools for emergencies, but also to create nurturing school climates and help children recover from the effects of living in communities plagued by persistent violence.
The Obama administration has taken major steps to help students afford college, and proposes to build on that momentum with programs that will drive major reforms to reduce the escalating costs of higher education.
In March 2012, ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced the release of an innovative FAFSA Completion Tool to help guidance professionals, school administrators and practitioners both track and subsequently increase FAFSA completions at high schools across the country. Prior to publishing this data, the only source of data on FAFSA completions that high schools had were from self-reported student surveys, which were highly unreliable.
Through the FAFSA Completion Tool, educators have real-time access to reliable data to track FAFSA submission and completion and gauge their progress in increasing FAFSA completion. Key studies have indicated that FAFSA completion correlates strongly with college enrollment, particularly among low-income populations.
Last month, FSA updated and enhanced the FAFSA Completion Tool by revealing FAFSA submission and completion totals for the current year, as well as FAFSA submission and completion totals for the same time last year. With this addition, the FAFSA Completion Tool—updated biweekly during the peak application period—now provides every high school in the country whose students have completed five or more FAFSAs with information about how many applications were submitted and completed for the 2013–14 application year as well as comparison data from the 2012–13 FAFSA application year.
Last year’s data provides a baseline by which school districts can gauge their efforts, set goals to improve on last year’s performance, and subsequently increase FAFSA completion within their school district.
Last year, the Tool provided FAFSA submission and completion data for the senior classes at over 24,000 high schools in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and all U.S. territories. More than 30,000 visitors accessed the data throughout the spring of 2012 to inform their local FAFSA completion strategies and overall college access initiatives. There are indications the Tool has contributed to raising FAFSA awareness across the country with more than 500,000 seniors having submitted a 2013–14 FAFSA through the end of January this year. This represents a nine percent increase compared to early submissions during January 2012.
For more information on the Tool and to search updated FAFSA Completion Data by High School for the senior class of 2013, visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa-hs-data.
Secretary Arne Duncan testified on Capitol Hill Thursday during a hearing on ESEA flexibility. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams.
States and their schools are breaking free from the restrictions of No Child Left Behind and pursuing new and better ways to prepare and protect all students, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a Senate committee Thursday.
In a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Duncan promoted the value of providing flexibility to states under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which the Department of Education began offering in 2011. Duncan said that granting states new flexibility through waivers was not his first choice—he would have preferred that Congress reauthorize, or amend the law instead. But in light of congressional gridlock over reauthorization, Duncan said that he was “not willing to stand by idly and do nothing while students and educators continue to suffer under NCLB.”
NCLB is the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). And Duncan said that NCLB has become a well-intended, but overly-prescriptive law that created incentives to lower standards, encouraged teaching to the test, mislabeled many schools as failures, and prescribed a one-size-fits-all accountability system that failed to support local solutions and innovation. With ESEA years overdue for congressional reauthorization, the Obama Administration sent Congress a Blueprint for Reform of ESEA in 2010.
Nearly two years later, after Congress failed to authorize ESEA, the Administration offered states the chance to pursue waivers to NCLB in September 2011. Duncan told the committee that “providing waivers was always, always our plan B.”
In his testimony, and during questions from the Committee, Duncan outlined in detail the ways in which the waiver approach, or “ESEA Flexibility,” – has strengthened accountability for at-risk students, improved evaluation and professional development for teachers and principals, and unleashed a wave of state-led innovation.
ESEA flexibility supports states and districts in replacing the “one-size-fits-all” interventions of NCLB and empowers states to tailor reforms that meet the needs of their students. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have been approved for ESEA flexibility, and nine states, plus Puerto Rico and the Bureau of Indian Education, have pending requests.
Duncan noted that states receiving NCLB flexibility “must demonstrate a commitment and capacity to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.”
Multiple Measures of Growth and Gain
One of the unintended effects of NCLB is that it provided incentives to lower academic standards—and 19 states actually lowered their standards after NCLB was enacted in 2001. The law’s narrow measures for school progress—annual reading and math test scores and high school graduation rates—also prompted teaching to the test and an overly simplistic model for assessing school progress. “Under No Child Left Behind there was far too much focus on a single test score,” Duncan said. “I’m more interested in outcomes,” Duncan added. “If you have the best third grade test score in the world but 50 percent of your students are dropping out of high school, you are not changing student’s lives. You can’t get a job with a third grade test score.”
Under ESEA flexibility, states are using multiple measures of growth and gain in student learning, rather than NCLB’s narrow measures. “This is a huge step in the right direction,” said Duncan. “All of the leadership, all of the creativity, is coming from the states.”
Better Serving At-Risk Students
At the hearing, Duncan said he was surprised to learn that under NCLB, low-income and minority students, English learners, and students with disabilities were “invisible” because schools were not held accountable for the performance of subgroups of students if there were not enough students in their subgroup to “count” under state rules. Duncan explained during his testimony that under flexibility, these students are no longer invisible, which “is a significant step in the right direction,” he said.
One example of how flexibility is helping at-risk students can be found in Arkansas. Under ESEA flexibility, Arkansas is now holding more than 1,000 schools accountable for subgroups that weren’t accountable under NCLB. Across all states receiving waivers to date, at least 9,000 additional schools are now accountable for subgroups for which they weren’t accountable before.
Duncan pointed out that states with waivers have set aggressive performance targets for all subgroups. They are using performance targets to tailor local interventions, rather than as a tool to label schools as failures. Waiver states are expecting progress for all subgroups–but much faster rates of progress for those that are furthest behind.
Recognizing and Rewarding Schools for Progress and Success
Under ESEA flexibility, states are recognizing a school’s student growth and success–and supporting interventions that work. Secretary Duncan cited the example of Columbus Park Preparatory Academy in Worcester, Mass. Under NCLB, the school was deemed to be among the bottom 20 percent of schools in the state, despite the fact that it was making significant progress in boosting achievement for traditionally low-performing students. “That school’s not a failure,” Duncan said. “That school’s a success … think of how demoralizing it is to teachers who are working so hard to be labeled a failure when you are seeing improvement each year.”
Supporting Teacher and Principal Effectiveness
“Talent matters tremendously in education,” Duncan said in talking about the new and far more robust evaluation systems that states are building under flexibility. States are developing evaluation systems that go far beyond NCLB’s minimum “highly qualified teacher” standards, and are using systems that measure and support effective teaching and leadership based on multiple measures, including student growth. “Great principals lead great schools. Great teachers do miraculous things with children,” he said.
Duncan described how Tennessee has been at the forefront of improving teacher and principal evaluation systems with the input from 17,000 teachers and administrators. The state also continues to receive feedback so it can refine and improve its evaluation system. “I have yet to meet a teacher who is scared of accountability,” Duncan said. They just want it to be fair. They want it to be honest.
Providing States with Flexibility to Move Forward With Reform
The federal role in education is relatively narrow, Duncan told the committee. “What’s exciting about ESEA flexibility, is that states are leading the way in strengthening education for all children,” he said. In explaining the federal role, Duncan said:
The federal government does not serve as a national school board … We don’t dictate curriculum, levy school assessments, or open and close schools. We don’t specify the content of academic standards or negotiate teachers’ contracts. We do have a responsibility to set a high bar to protect the interests of students, especially at-risk students. But how to reach that bar, I believe, should be left to the states.
Duncan concluded his testimony by noting that in a time of partisan rancor, ESEA waivers had an unusual bipartisan appeal in statehouses across the country. He observed that “we approach this work with both a tremendous sense of excitement, coupled with a real sense of humility.”
In the end, Duncan said, he didn’t have “a moment’s doubt” that state flexibility “is a major improvement for children and for adults over NCLB.” But he stressed the need to learn from any mistakes in the waiver process, correct them quickly, and share that learning across the country. “We can never let the perfect become the enemy of the good,” he cautioned.” And that is what we have done for far too long in education.” Ensuring a world-class education for every child, Duncan added, “is both a demanding challenge and an urgent imperative for our nation, our communities, and our children.”
Click here to read Secretary Duncan’s prepared testimony, and click here to watch a video of Secretary Duncan’s opening statement and the entire hearing.
As a U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow, one of the many roles I am lucky enough to engage in is that of a conduit between America’s teachers and the Department of Education (ED). I get to sit down with teachers all across the country–sometimes virtually, but often in person–and hear how things are going in their classrooms, in their schools, and in their districts. Then I present that feedback to policy and program folks at ED, giving them critical information to process and, in many cases, act upon.
This formula is singularly responsible for a recent initiative coming out of ED called the RESPECT Project. RESPECT aims to transform the teaching profession so that teachers are as well prepared, developed, compensated and respected as other professionals. One result of this movement is a short vision document written by teachers that outlines ways the teaching profession must change if it hopes to be on par with other respected professions in this country.
Highly visible in this document–and certainly pushed to the front in many of the teacher roundtables in which I have been involved–is the importance of teacher voice in the ongoing conversation about reform. For too long the educators on the ground have lacked an effective way to directly inform and influence education policy and programs at the federal, state and district level. Many of those serving in education offices may not have seen the inside of a classroom from a teacher’s eye view, and it is important they understand our view as they develop and implement policies that affect us in the classroom.
The good news is that recently more and more states have begun to realize the importance of listening to teachers and have made plans to bring the wisdom and experience of teachers into the education reform movement by creating teacher cabinets.
Most recently, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, proposed the the formation of a Virginia Teacher Cabinet, and other states have similar efforts under development. Virginia’s Teacher Cabinet will be comprised of teachers from each superintendent region of the Commonwealth, will be led by the Virginia Teacher of the Year, and will provide an annual report to the governor on the “State of Teaching in Virginia.”
As a Virginia public school teacher, I am excited about the opportunity for fellow educators to be able to lend their invaluable experiences and insights to state-wide reform efforts. I believe this will serve as the crucial catalyst to move reform-talks into reform-action. And as more states follow suit with their own versions of these teacher-led panels–which will undoubtedly take place–I firmly expect a wave of teacher reform to roll over our country, transforming this beloved profession into what it deserves to be.
Mike Humphreys is a 2012-2013 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow who teaches physical education in Arlington, Va.
“It is critical that we work collaboratively with teachers to develop policies that will truly transform and elevate the profession. I am proud of the work our Teaching Ambassadors do every year to talk with and listen to other teachers across the country as well as the direct input they have given staff.” – Secretary Arne Duncan
Before their fellowship ended, 2011-12 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellows gave Secretary Duncan one final briefing. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams.
Since 2008, the Department has employed eighty outstanding teachers on a full or part time basis through the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program. This highly selective program was created because we believe that teachers should have meaningful opportunities to both contribute to and understand the policies that impact their students and school communities. We know that when families, students, and other teachers want information about education, it is most often to teachers that they turn.
The Teaching Ambassador Fellowship supports the Department’s mission by employing a diverse cadre of teachers to gain significant knowledge about the Department information and resources, share this information with other educators across the country, and contribute their classroom expertise to the national dialogue.
Teaching Ambassador Fellows are outstanding teachers, with a record of leadership, strong communication skills, and insights into educational policy based in classroom expertise. They come with networks of support from their professional communities and have participated in training or development programs that have prepared them to write and speak frequently about teaching, educational leadership and/or policy.
The Washington Fellowship is a full-time appointment based at the Department’s Headquarters in Washington. The Classroom Fellowship enables teachers to participate on a part-time basis for the Department, in addition to their regular school responsibilities, working in collaboration with the Department’s Regional Offices.
All Teaching Ambassador Fellows spend one year learning about key federal programs and policies; sharing their expertise with federal staff members; and providing outreach and communication about federal initiatives to other educators on behalf of the Department in order to help teachers understand and implement these efforts at the federal, state and local levels, to improve the likelihood of their success. For the Fellows, the program adds greater knowledge of educational policy and leadership to their toolkits to contribute to solutions at all levels for long intractable challenges in education.
Teacher leaders — please consider applying and share this information with your colleagues! Sign up for updates on the application process and call 1-800-USA-Learn or email us at TeacherFellowship@ed.gov with questions.
Click here to read Homeroom blog posts from current and former Teaching Ambassador Fellows.
A recent letter to the Department of Education from a teacher in Cincinnati contained a quote that really struck me: “It is not at all that I am afraid of what my test scores might reveal. I am more concerned about what my student’s test scores will not reveal.”
The quote rings true of so many classrooms across the country, including my own. I teach students who have been removed from other institutions due to behavior, chronic absences or other issues that have prevented them from being successful in the traditional school setting. Each of my students has been identified as a potential dropout and each has a profound set of challenges that manifest in the classroom.
Marciano Gutierrez is a 2012 Teaching Ambassador Fellow, on loan from Alta Vista High School in Mountain View, CA.
As a U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow I have been able to engage with Secretary Duncan’s senior staff and have learned more about the Department’s stance on teacher evaluation. Like most teachers in the United States, Secretary Duncan strongly believes that a single test result does not adequately reflect the quality or complexity of excellent teaching.
At a speech to the National Council for Social Studies, Mr. Duncan stated, “Just to be 100 percent clear—evaluation should never be based only on test scores. That would be ridiculous. It should also include factors like principal observation or peer review, student work, parent feedback. It should be designed locally—and teachers should be at the table to help design it.” The Department’s work on educator evaluations has thus been to promote multiple measures to elicit a well-rounded perspective on one’s craft and to encourage districts and schools to primarily use these tools as a means for quality professional development. This thinking was also captured in a speech that the Secretary made to Baltimore County teachers this past fall.
As a teacher of students who historically struggle on standardized tests, I understand the concern about tying testing data- which is often influenced by factors outside of my control- to my performance. I am also sometimes frustrated by the quality of the multiple-choice assessments used to assess my students’ learning which are ultimately a reflection upon my practice. Despite these challenges, I do believe that there does need to be some measurement of student performance and growth. This information should be collected and analyzed so that we can continuously improve the learning experience for all students and to ensure that we hold ourselves to high standards and continuous improvement.
While the Department’s policy has been that measures of student growth and gain should be a ‘significant’ factor in teacher evaluations, the Secretary has said that, “we intentionally leave that undefined—because different states will have different approaches—and different confidence levels in their assessments.”
As a previous Teacher Fellow with the Hope Street Group, and in my current work with Race to the Top states, I have seen a variety of state-developed approaches and strategies that aim to meet this vision. I have come to realize that the strongest evaluation systems have been developed with robust teacher input at every stage of the process. These evaluation systems, which are designed and improved with the practical insight of teachers, use test scores as only one of multiple measures of effectiveness, therefore allowing teachers of students like mine, to demonstrate quality teaching in ways that transcend test scores alone.
Marciano Gutierrez is a 2012 Teaching Ambassador Fellow, on loan from Alta Vista High School in Mountain View, Calif.
In celebration of National Principals Month, dozens of senior ED leaders and staff members are visiting schools today, tomorrow and Thursday across the country as part of an organized effort in which federal education officials are shadowing school leaders.
These shadowing visits, in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and New Leaders, will offer Department staff a glimpse into the daily work of principals, while also providing principals with the opportunity to discuss how federal policy, programs, and resources impact their schools.
To complete the week-long partnership effort, principals and ED staff who participated in the job shadowing will join Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Friday afternoon for a debrief discussion to reflect on their experiences and lessons learned. Earlier this year, ED officials shadowed fifty teachers across the country as part of Teacher Appreciation Week.
Stay tuned for stories from our participants and see a complete list of who is participating and at what location.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital engagement at the U.S. Department of Education