In 2011-2012, North Carolina became one of many states to restructure their educator evaluation system to incorporate student growth. The NC Department of Public Instruction commissioned the external expertise of WestEd to evaluate various growth models and recommend value-added technology that would help them best meet their mission of using meaningful evaluation to increase effectiveness of teachers and leaders. As announced today, WestEd chose SAS EVAAS (Educational Value-Added Assessment System) for K-12.
As a former public high-school teacher in NC, I wanted to gather thoughts and reflections from two former colleagues who are still currently teaching high school ELA and math. The following interview Q&A reflects these teachers’ personal opinions about NC’s new evaluation system, specifically, the inclusion of student growth measures. Both teachers are from Leesville Road High School in Wake County Public School System.
|Teacher’s Name, Grade, and Subject Taught:|
English Language Arts
Grades 9, 10, & 12
Pre-Algebra, Foundations of Algebra, Algebra I
|What types of students do you teach?|
|All achievement levels I/II-III/IVBoth non-honors and honors placement students||Low-achieving, at-risk students 100% of the time|
|25 years teaching in FL and NCMEd, Master’s in Curriculum & InstructionNational Board Certified Teacher, ELANC Association of Educators (NCAE) union member||9 years teaching in NCMSA, Master’s in School AdministrationHolds a Principal License|
|How do you feel about EVAAS reporting being used in teacher and leader evaluations?|
|I am an advocate for use of data to motivate and enhance teaching and learning. I am interested in the fact that the data available can be reviewed and interpreted from many different angles and based on various subgroups. Hopefully some of the information will support teacher placement that will allow for the most growth for students. Many times students who are “below grade-level” need the most experienced teachers. Unless there is an effort to insure that course of placement is followed, there is the possibility that newer teachers (who are quite capable but still growing in their strategies) will be placed where their frame of reference might not serve those students as well as a more experienced teacher. My EVAAS diagnostic reports show me that I am most highly effective with low-achieving students and I work with those students in my year-long CTE/English I team-taught paired course.||I had anxiety at first in hearing about this new metric because my students come to me 2-3 years below grade level. I initially wondered if it would measure my effectiveness fairly given their low achievement levels. When it was clearly explained to me that EVAAS measures growth, not achievement, I realized I could use that as an improvement tool. Sometimes I think I am growing kids, but maybe I am not. And likewise, maybe I don’t feel as if kids are growing, but they actually are. Now I will know and can adjust my instruction appropriately.|
|What insights can you gain about your own practice from the value-added reporting outside of educator evaluation?|
|This information and wide-ranging data is what allows for differentiated instruction- combining EVAAS statistical data with my own anecdotal and personal data as I get to know my students. We don’t track students, but I can learn more about their strengths and weaknesses more quickly instead of through the passage of valuable time and can appreciate and work with students’ demonstrative patterns sooner. How teachers interpret and react to the data is what’s important. Ultimately, I want to get this additional feedback (through EVAAS) to see if my differentiated instruction has a significant impact on student learning and performance. Was it worth it? I see now that in my year-long paired class, it was worth it! Trying to find a way to discover the strengths that a school/department/teacher possesses as demonstrated by the student results can lead to a discussion of best practices that can be used and enhanced by all stakeholders.||Where it really helps me is in creating my personal goals for my Personal Development Plan (PDP). Each year, we set a school-level and department-level goal to work toward. Teachers also have to set a personal goal, and after nine years, it has become challenging to determine a new and meaningful goal each year. This data tool (EVAAS) gives me a capture of last year and tells me what I need to work on this year, so I know my personal PDP goal is on-target.|
|What concerns do you have for fairness or implementation of the system?|
|The state is diverse regarding funding, access to technology and to the receipt of timely information. All public institutions need an evaluation system and public schools are no different. I have heard people voice concerns because they still need a clear understanding of how the tools will be helpful to public education. I expect there to be associated reactions to any educator evaluation and interpretation of results.||As long as it is used correctly across schools and districts, I am not concerned.|
|What type of training or communications have you received?||What are your thoughts on the gradual implementation of the new evaluation system?|
|I think we are all becoming more familiar, not only with standard 6 (EVAAS) but with the entire teacher evaluation system and its changes over the last few years. I anticipate more training in the fall. The reports are very well-organized and included graphs, numbers, and comparisons but I am not exactly sure how to use this information to support my understanding regarding lesson design and changes to my skill focus in order to support student growth. I look forward to developing my understanding of this information and the discussions that will develop in my PLT in the fall.||I think that implementing it in pieces was very beneficial. It could have been overwhelming if teachers had to learn the new observation rubric and EVAAS at the same time. But at my school, we had a year to get familiar with the observation rubric and collect student artifacts. We then had a year to work with EVAAS before it was a weighted component of the overall evaluation.|
|Final thoughts on the multiple measures included in the evaluation system?||As a math teacher, what are your thoughts on NC DPI’s decision to use a 3-year weighted average for the student growth measure (EVAAS)?|
|We now have two distinct ways of learning about our practice with the objective (EVAAS) and subjective (observation rubric). And then teachers can provide their own input with student artifacts. So, overall, it seems like a very well thought-out and balanced approach.||It is definitely more fair to teachers. The 3-year average compensates for an adjustment year where my EVAAS estimate might be slightly lower due to teaching a new grade level, working with new curriculum or assessments, etc.|
I thank these two respected colleagues and educators for their candid feedback and input. The entire state is now looking forward to seeing a positive impact on educator performance now that multiple measures and student growth are instrumental parts of NC’s teacher and leader evaluation system.