CRSD Snippets for November 6, 2014
Submitted by Tamara Van Wyhe, Director of Teaching & Learning Support
The old maxim “What gets measured gets done” holds true whenever a goal is coupled with accountability measures to check on the progress of that goal: You tell your child to clean his room on a Saturday afternoon, and you check on the progress every now and then until the room has been tidied to your satisfaction. You set a weight loss goal and step on the scale every morning until the desired number shows up on the display. You take your car to a mechanic to have an annoying rattling sound diagnosed, and the mechanic tinkers away until the problem is fixed. You send your student to school each morning and expect that he or she will learn new information, skills, and concepts.
In our schools, educator evaluation systems have served as the measurement for “what gets done” in the classroom. However, evaluation systems of the past typically included a principal or observer spending a bit of time in a teacher’s classroom to ascertain what the teacher was doing, and then providing a general rating that didn’t necessarily measure the real goal of what we want to happen the classroom, which is student learning. Along with myriad other changes in the Alaskan education system over the last few years, the educator accountability system is also in the process of a major overhaul to ensure that what we want to “get done” in the classroom is also what is being measured. Student learning should be the primary goal; therefore, the new accountability system for district leaders, school principals, and classroom teachers will look quite different from systems of the past.
During the 2014-15 school year, districts across the state are piloting new Educator Accountability Systems focused on helping educators grow professionally and improving the effectiveness of instruction in individual classrooms, across an entire school, and district-wide. Teachers, principals, and district leaders are learning to measure their effectiveness through the careful assessment of student learning.
Undoubtedly the requirement of the new accountability system creating the greatest angst for educators is the inclusion of a hefty Student Achievement component in the overall evaluation rating. During the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, at least 20% of an educator’s overall evaluation rating must be based on student learning data. In the fall of 2017, that number increases to 35%; and, during the 2018-19 school year and beyond, a full 50% of the evaluation will be based on how much students in the classroom are learning.
Questions that arise most frequently when educators talk about the new system focus on the variables that we can’t control: What about students who are frequently absent? What about students who move into our communities and have not gained prerequisite skills in their previous schools? If student learning in measured by various tests, what about students who don’t care about the results…or don’t try to do their best when taking those assessments…or are just having a really bad day, resulting in low test scores? New evaluation regulations require that student learning must be based on “two to four valid, reliable measures of student growth, including statewide assessments,” so educators have reason to wonder how those uncontrollable variables will affect their performance evaluations.
Fortunately, the regulations also include flexibility for districts in designing accountability systems that work for them while supporting the ultimate goal. CRSD educators are working together this school year to learn how the new system will work, to familiarize themselves with a new evaluation framework, and to develop student learning objectives (SLOs) designed to measure student growth. It’s a tall order during a school year when we are also implementing a new statewide assessment based on new state standards, which also happens to be the first large-scale computer-based-assessment (CBA) in Alaska’s history.
One of my favorite quotes related to the purpose of education comes from Chester Finn: “Teaching hasn’t happened unless learning has occurred.” Our new accountability system requires that we invest every ounce of our efforts in ensuring that teaching does result in learning. We’re measuring in new ways these days…and student learning is what all of us desire to “get done.”