The revisions to the Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria have implications for K-12 teachers and administrators throughout the Commonwealth. At this time, HB 576 and SB 438 are in committee. The bill contains a number of changes for public education. I am going to focus on just one piece of that legislation—Standard 7.
Standard 7 indicates that teacher “evaluations shall include student academic progress as a significant component and an overall summative rating.” The Department of Education has provided seven performance standards under which all teachers are to be evaluated. The seventh standard, Student Academic Progress, is the one that is causing heartburn for many.
The cause of this heartburn is two-fold. First, the original legislation had an implementation date of July 1, 2012. This did not give school divisions much time to develop, implement, and “sell” such a policy change to teachers. To implement such a change, school divisions would need to revise their current teacher evaluation policies. To do this well, school divisions need to understand the change, bring together stakeholders to discuss the change, and to draft a new policy to bring before the school board. All of this takes time. Fortunately, the current legislation has an amended implementation date of July 1, 2013. This gives divisions more time to gather information and involve stakeholders.
The second cause of heartburn comes from the difficulty in determining what academic progress looks like and what types of data sources can be used to measure this progress. Again, school divisions need time to understand how to help teachers set strategic, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) goals and how such a measure effects a teacher’s overall summative evaluation.
Local school boards are ultimately responsible for the implementation of such a policy. I believe that only good can come from delaying implementation by a year. That will give school divisions time to implement thoughtfully and with fidelity. Teachers need time to learn how to write and set SMART goals. Giving teachers the autonomy to set their own goals is both advantageous and concerning. Teachers know their content and their students. They should be able to set meaningful goals that provide data on how well their students are progressing. What is concerning is the possibility that some teachers may set goals that are not rigorous or supportive of a school’s improvement plan.
Change is difficult. There is no doubt about that. The irony of this change is that it seems to be all about teachers, but it is not–it’s finally all about students.
I believe it is time for schools to be about learning, not teaching. This legislation does just that. In fact, if Standard 7 is done well, teachers and students both learn and grow.