Rating principals

Principals perform well in pilot test of evaluation system

PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/ Chalkbeat TN
Kenneth Woods and his daughters Breanna Rosser (r) and Taylor Woods (r) reviewed 12 powerful words with sixth grade language arts teacher Patricia Hervey.

Some 94 percent of participating Colorado principals and assistant principals were ranked as proficient or higher in a pilot test of the state’s evaluation system, according to a new report from the Department of Education.

But the results may not be indicative of how school leaders will perform when the full evaluation system, which will eventually incorporate measures of student growth on standardized tests, rolls out. In addition, the report included ratings for only 410 principals and assistant principals in 21 pilot districts. The state has more than 2,800 principals and assistant principals, as calculated on a full-time equivalent basis.

The overall ratings for pilot principals found 18 percent exemplary, 30 percent accomplished, 46 percent proficient and 5 percent partially proficient. No principals were rated as skills being “not evident,” the lowest category.

Although the percentage differences were relatively small, the principals received the highest ratings in managerial leadership and somewhat lower ratings on instructional leadership and external leadership (family and community involvement).

“Historically that’s we’ve asked them to do, [so]… it’s not surprising” principals rated highest in management, said Katy Anthes, executive director of educator effectiveness for CDE. Anthes recently briefed the State Council for Educator Effectiveness on the report.

Those results are similar to those for teachers evaluated under the 2012-13 pilot (see story).

Principals were the initial guinea pigs for the evaluation system. A smaller group of principals and assistants was evaluated during 2011-12, and the pilot continued with a larger group during 2012-13. This school year all principals and teachers are being evaluated under systems that comply with Senate Bill 10-191, the law that created the new system.

“A lot of people moved up a little bit” from the first year to the second, data analyst Britt Wilkinfeld told the council. Of the 196 principals who were evaluated both years, 36 percent improved their performance, she said.

“It’s skewed toward the positive, which isn’t surprising, she said, because “it’s still very early in the implementation” of the evaluation system.

“All findings should be considered preliminary,” the report cautions, because “educators “are still learning and becoming familiar with the system, there continues to be variability in the way districts are training and implementing the system and CDE is continuing to learn from and make improvements to the system.”

The report concluded that preliminary analyses of the pilot data “indicate that the professional practice rubric [score sheet] captures multiple aspects of school leadership and differences in principal practice.” Based on the preliminary findings, “CDE continues to find evidence for reliability and validity in the” principal evaluation system.

Principal standards
  • Strategic leadership
  • Instructional leadership
  • Equity leadership
  • HR leadership
  • Managerial leadership
  • External leadership

More info on standards & elements

The pilot principal evaluations were based on professional practices and lacked half of the evaluation data – measures of student growth. When the evaluations system is fully rolled out, both teacher and principal evaluations will be based half on professional practice and half on student growth. Both sets of data will be combined into ratings of highly effective, effective, partially effective or ineffective. Principals already can be fired at the will of their employers, regardless of evaluations ratings. But non-probationary teachers will lose that status if they have two consecutive years of ineffective or partially effective ratings.

Each of the six principal quality standards includes three or more detailed “elements” on which principals are evaluated. For instance, the managerial leadership standard contains six elements, including one for budget management.

The CDE study found that pilot principals were rated highest on such elements as commitment to the whole child, ensuring supportive environments, maximizing instructional time, fostering professional learning communities and conflict management.

Lowest rated elements were implementing high-quality instruction, setting high student expectations, creating school plans, setting instructional practices, family and community outreach and budgeting.

Other study findings include:

  • Elementary principals were rated somewhat higher.
  • More experienced principals received better ratings.
  • Principals scored better than assistant principals.
  • Female principals scored better than males, but there were no statistically significant difference based on ethnicity.
  • Principal ratings were not correlated with student demographics but were correlated with the number of points earned on a school’s performance rating.
  • Ratings were correlated to schools’ overall student growth data, but the correlation was not statistically significant for TCAP scores.
  • Principal ratings were correlated with positive responses on teacher school-climate surveys.

The department surveyed pilot principals about the evaluations both before the program started and after each school year. The surveys showed “a steady increase of positive responses,” the report said.

teacher prep

Three of Tennessee’s largest teacher training programs improve on state report card

PHOTO: Nic Garcia

Three of Tennessee’s 10 largest teacher training programs increased their scores on a state report card that seeks to capture how well new teachers are being prepared for the classroom based on state goals.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville became the first public university to achieve a top score under the State Board of Education’s new grading system, now in its second year. And Middle Tennessee State University and East Tennessee State University also improved their scores.

But most of Tennessee’s 39 programs scored the same in 2017 as in 2016. Those included the University of Memphis and Austin Peay State University.

And more than 40 percent landed in the bottom tiers, including the state’s largest, Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, along with other sizable ones like the University of Tennessee’s programs in Chattanooga and Martin.

The report card, released on Thursday, is designed to give a snapshot of the effectiveness of the state’s teacher preparation programs, a front-burner issue in Tennessee since a 2016 report said that most of them aren’t adequately equipping teachers to be effective in the classroom. Teacher quality is important because years of research show that teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling.

State officials say the top-tier score by UT-Knoxville is significant — not only because it’s a public school but because it was the state’s sixth largest training program in 2017. “As one of the state’s flagship public institutions, UTK is setting the bar for how to effectively train teachers at scale,” said Sara Heyburn Morrison, executive director of the State Board. She cited the school’s “model internship program” and “close partnerships with local districts.”

In the previous year’s report card, the top scores only went to small nontraditional programs like Memphis Teacher Residency and Teach For America and private universities such as Lipscomb in Nashville and Union in Jackson.

That demographic recently prompted a call to action by Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. He told state lawmakers last month that it’s time to put traditional programs at public institutions under a microscope, especially since those colleges and universities produce 90 percent of the state’s new teachers.

“Sometimes an undue amount of discussion happens around alternative new teacher programs like Teach For America or the New Teacher Project …,” he said. “If we’re going to move the needle (on teacher training), it’s going to happen at the campus of a college or university.”

Tennessee has graded programs that train teachers since 2009 but redesigned its report card in 2016 to provide a clearer picture of their effectiveness for stakeholders ranging from aspiring teachers to hiring principals. The criteria includes a program’s ability to recruit a strong, racially diverse group of teachers-in-training; produce teachers for high-need areas such as special education and secondary math and science; and its candidates’ placement and retention in Tennessee public schools. Another metric is how effective those teachers are in classrooms based on their evaluations, including state test scores that show student growth.

Not everybody is satisfied with the report card’s design, though.

“It’s a real challenge to capture in one report the complexity of preparing our candidates to be teachers, especially when you’re comparing very different programs across the state,” said Lisa Zagumny, dean of the College of Education at Tennessee Tech, which increased its points in 2017 but not enough to improve its overall score.

She said Tech got dinged over student growth scores, but that only a third of its graduates went on to teach in tested subjects. “And yet our observation scores are very high,” added Associate Dean Julie Baker. “We know we’re doing something right because our candidates who go on to teach are being scored very high by their principals.”

Racial diversity is another challenge for Tech, which is located in the Upper Cumberland region. “The diversity we serve is rural, first-generation college students who are typically lower socioeconomically,” said Zagumny.

Tennessee is seeking to recruit a more racially diverse teacher force because of research showing the impact of having teachers who represent the student population they are serving. Of candidates who completed Tennessee’s programs in 2016, only 14 percent were people of color, compared with 36 percent of the state’s student population.

Morrison said this year’s report card includes a new “highlights page” in an effort to allow programs to share a narrative about the work they’re doing. 

You can search for schools below, find the new 2017 scores, and compare them with the previous year. A 1 is the lowest performance category and a 4 is the highest. You can sort the list based on performance and size. This is the state’s first report card based on three years of data.

SED VS. NYSUT

With changes coming to New York’s teacher evaluations, union and state officials prepare to clash

PHOTO: Monica Disare
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia at Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School.

New York’s education policymakers got a lesson Monday in how treacherous it will to be revamp the state’s highly controversial teacher-evaluation system.

Just minutes after the state education commissioner laid out a detailed plan for coming up with a redesigned system by fall of 2019, a state teachers-union official rebuffed it. Arguing that teachers cannot wait another year for fixes to a rating system they say is fatally flawed, the union will ask lawmakers to change the underlying evaluation law this year, the official said.

In fact, she said, the union won’t even ask its members to take a department survey meant to gather feedback on the current system, which rates teachers based on classroom observations and other measures of what students are learning.

“First and foremost, the teachers that we represent believe that the time to fix [teacher evaluation] is this year,” said Jolene DiBrango, executive vice president of the New York State United Teachers, in a conversation with reporters after the state outlined its plan. “Now is the time — we’ve been talking about this for years.”

Even as state policymakers face political opposition from the teachers union — which has long opposed using state test scores to judge teachers, as was required by a 2015 state law — they are likely to run into practical challenges as well.

Any effort to come up with statewide alternative assessments to use in evaluations could prove too costly at a time of fiscal uncertainty for the state. And major changes to the system could require reopening the evaluation law, which sparked a fierce backlash when it was passed. So far, lawmakers have not indicated that doing so is a priority, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo may want to avoid such drama during an election year.

“We have lived in a very toxic landscape,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said Monday during the Regents’ monthly meeting, where state officials laid out their redesign plan. “I think that we have to be so mindful and so strategic and so intentional in our plan.”

The 2015 law — which Cuomo aggressively pushed for after calling the previous evaluation system “baloney” — weakened the role of local districts and teachers unions in crafting teacher ratings, instead shifting more authority to the state. That opened the door for ratings that relied much more heavily on student test scores — a move fiercely opposed by the unions, which worked to fuel the state’s massive parent-led boycott of the state exams.

In response to the backlash, the Board of Regents placed a moratorium on the use of grades 3-8 math and English tests in teacher evaluations until 2019. Instead, districts must find different measures of teacher effectiveness.

But now, the teachers union wants to repeal the state law entirely, and return evaluations back to local districts. Doing so would allow educators to help design systems that take into account unique conditions in each district — and to likely greatly reduce or eliminate the role of test scores in teacher ratings.

“We believe local control is the key,” DiBrango said. “What will work in one school district will not work in another.”

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia did not rule out returning control of evaluations back to districts. But the lengthy redesign plan she laid Monday seemed aimed at improving the statewide system.

The state will form two redesign workgroups, state officials said. One will concentrate on the components of evaluations, including whether there should be classroom observations, tests, or other ways to judge teachers — and how much weight to give each part. The other group will focus on how student learning is measured, which may include developing new tests.

The education department will also continue to collect feedback from teachers through a survey, which 9,000 educators have already completed. However, DiBrango said the union will not encourage any additional teachers to take the survey in part because they were not consulted about the survey questions, which she said leads teachers into choosing among predetermined ways to evaluate them.

“We have not encouraged our teachers to necessarily take the survey if they don’t want to,” DiBrango said. “They have free will, so certainly some will take it and some will choose not to.”

As the union and the education department pursue their competing plans, the legislature could prove to be a serious roadblock.

Cuomo and state lawmakers have indicated that their top focus this legislative session is beating back funding cuts from Washington — not revisiting a deeply controversial law that is technically on hold until the moratorium ends next year.

On Monday, Elia suggested that her department may be able to make certain adjustments to the evaluation system without changing the law. Still, any major changes would likely require a new law. However, the department’s plan to present its redesign proposal by spring 2019 would give lawmakers little time to debate the proposed changes before the end of their legislative session.

Even if department officials could get lawmakers on board, a new evaluation system — with new tests — could prove too costly to adopt.

Officials recently said they would not join a federal program to create alternative state assessments because it would cost too much. On Monday, Elia said any new tests tied to teacher evaluations wouldn’t necessarily have to be given to as many students as the annual state exams, so they may be less costly.

Still, Regent Judith Chin, who chairs the board’s workgroup that focuses on standards and assessments, questioned whether the state could feasibly create a whole new set of tests to use for teacher ratings that would be ready for the 2019 school year.

“Is it realistic that we could build that capacity in a short period of time?” Chin asked.