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AFT looks at effective teacher development, evaluation

Teacher development and evaluation systems that are co-designed by teachers; based on agreed-upon teaching standards; assessed in multiple ways; and supported with ongoing training for teachers and evaluators alike are an effective strategy for teachers, administrators and students, the AFT says, based on the findings of a five-year effort by labor-management school district teams in New York state and Rhode Island.

"Moving Beyond Compliance: Lessons Learned from Teacher Development and Evaluation" captures the lessons learned from the experiences of 10 districts in New York and Rhode Island that transformed their evaluation systems. With support from the AFT Innovation Fund, the unions and district partners began creating these systems. Their work was so promising and different from the polarized debates over teacher evaluation that the AFT applied for federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grants to continue and expand the work.

"This report, along with a re-envisioned Elementary and Secondary Education Act, provides a huge opportunity to think about what it takes to have continuous improvement in teacher quality and student achievement. It's become clear that support-and-improve models promote better teaching and learning, while test-and-punish systems have failed," AFT President Randi Weingarten says. "With a growing teacher shortage as well as widespread teacher and parental discontent over the misuse and abuse of testing, much can be learned from the lessons of these 10 districts."

The report captures lessons learned from AFT i3 districts as well as corroborating evidence from non-i3 districts that revamped their evaluation systems. The 10 districts: In New York—Albany, Marlboro, North Syracuse and Plattsburgh. In Rhode Island—Central Falls, Cranston, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick and Woonsocket. Along with these teams, representatives from an additional 13 districts from 11 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands gathered Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C., for a conference to learn about the i3 districts' experiences.

The report found:

  • Labor-management collaboration is the most effective mechanism for engaging teachers, parents, community members and other stakeholders to build growth-oriented systems for teacher development and evaluation. Teachers and administrators must cultivate and nurture a shared vision, values, expectations, and investments in improving teaching and learning.
  • Teacher evaluations must consider the conditions and environments teachers and students face every day, both in and out of school.
  • Teacher evaluation models must be based on agreed-upon standards and use multiple measures, instead of relying on test scores for example, to ensure a full picture of a teacher's effectiveness and to provide multiple opportunities for growth.
  • Evaluators must receive continuous training.
  • Teachers should receive timely feedback, assistance and other interventions to improve instruction.
  • The work in the 10 districts was the only i3-funded project that included a focus on what general education teachers need to effectively instruct English language learners and students with disabilities as well as general education students.

[AFT press release]