Executive Summary

Deborah Stevens

Please describe a bit about your background?

I am currently the Director of Instructional Advocacy for the Delaware State Education Association.  In this role, I am responsible for developing education policy for the organization, overseeing DSEA’s training programs, and help with strategic planning for many of the local affiliates.  Lately, a large part of my work is focused upon revising the state’s educator evaluation system. Previously, I was involved in the Delaware Department of Education’s strategic planning process, especially around teacher effectiveness and in putting together Delaware’s Race to the Top (RTTT) plan. 

The difficulty has been in completing the huge amount of work attached to developing a fair, valid, and reliable system for measuring student growth in a substantially short period of time

Over the past 21 years with the organization, I have also served as Organization Specialist directing DSEA’s membership development and training programs and a field representative responsible for member representation and collective bargaining.

Prior to joining DSEA, I was an elementary teacher for 17 years in Massachusetts.  During that time I also served as a part time field representative for the Massachusetts Teachers Association and an adjunct professor in the Education department at Worcester State College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

What has been the union’s major effort around the evaluation reform?

DSEA’s efforts around evaluation reform have centered on the following:

·       Developing an evaluation system that is fair, valid, and reliable,

·       Developing an evaluation system capable of differentiating growth for all student populations,

·       Developing an evaluation system where a comprehensive list of valid student assessment measures is developed for each content area in order to appropriately link teacher input to student output,

·       Developing an evaluation system that accurately assesses the work and contribution of non-subject educators such as nurses, librarians, counselors, etc.

DSEA continues to meet with the Delaware Department of Education and state government to discuss the development of appropriate student growth measures.  We are also meeting with our local affiliates in order to keep them apprised of the revisions to the evaluation system.

What has worked well over the past 18 months of implementation?

Over the past 18 months, DSEA has worked diligently with the Delaware DOE and other stakeholders to get the revisions to the educator evaluation system “right.”  Some of the efforts that have worked well include:

·       The creation of the DPAS II Review Group.  This group includes DOE, DSEA, and District Administrator representatives charged with reviewing the implementation efforts attached to the revised educator evaluation system.  The group meets monthly and makes suggestions for modification when necessary.

·       The development and implementation of online training modules for assessors. The online modules include tests that the assessors have to pass in order to be credentialed and able to assess educators.

·       The development and implementation of face-to-face training for assessors.  This training focuses on the rubrics that define effective educator practice, writing appropriate feedback, and creating suitable improvement plans.

·       The development and implementation of online modules for teachers that explain the revised educator evaluation system.  More work needs to be done to ensure that all teachers have access to these online modules in their districts.

·       The creation of a section on the DSEA website that clarifies the revisions to the educator evaluation system and corrects misinformation that may be circulating in the districts.

·       Building and District wide presentations by DSEA explaining the reforms made to the student improvement component of the educator evaluation system.

What is the role for third parties?

Third parties should serve the needs of the state/district/building within which they will work.   They have the opportunity to provide support, ideas, technology, etc., but should do so only after completing a needs assessment with their client.  It is more important to meet client needs rather than convincing them that they need the third party “specialty” product.  It would also be wise to approach the client system in a spirit of appreciative inquiry rather than with an attitude of “I’m going to fix you.” Third parties should also have a deep understanding of change management – knowing early on the impact of change on the system and what will be required to overcome resistance.

Since third parties operating in the reform arena are often not part of the local area, they also need an understanding of the culture of the client system and the impact that organizational culture will have upon the contemplated reforms.  It is essential that they spend time in the client system in order to become familiar with the culture of the state/district/building within which they are working and effect successful change. 

What are big remaining questions on the reform?

Many questions remain as Delaware moves forward with its reform efforts in general and its evaluation reform efforts in particular.  Are we taking a “systems” approach to reform or are we only focused on fixing single elements of the education system? With little or no research supporting many of the reform efforts; will we be willing to alter our course if the proposed reforms prove to be unsuccessful? How will the reform of the educator evaluation system help improve professional development?  How do we account for the impact of external elements – poverty, family dysfunction, etc. – on student growth?  How can we develop student growth assessments for both tested and non-tested grades and subjects that are truly capable of reflecting direct teacher input into student output?  How do we create a system that is manageable and meaningful?  These questions must be answered if we are to be successful in our efforts.

What are the main obstacles going forward?

There is a huge struggle between “getting it done” and “getting it done right.”  Teachers are willing to be held accountable for student growth using multiple measures that can directly link their input to student growth.  The difficulty has been in completing the huge amount of work attached to developing a fair, valid, and reliable system for measuring student growth in a substantially short period of time.  The work to create such a system in Delaware began during the summer of 2010; however, given the enormity of the task the work is not complete and there is still more work to be done.  The work includes developing multiple measures for those content areas not covered by the state test; developing measures for those educators who perform non-teaching functions; and creating measures that can capture social and behavioral growth, an area of learning equally as important as academic growth for so many students, and especially those with special learning needs. Creating multiple measures that can accurately assess student growth and can accurately capture teacher input into that growth is not a task that can be rushed.  When high stakes decisions will be made using this system, then it is imperative that the time needed to create such a system be provided in order to get it right.

What has worked well with regards to teacher engagement in the workgroups for non-tested grades and subjects?

In July of 2010 over 300 teachers were charged with creating multiple measures of student growth for non-tested grades and subject.  Some of the benefits derived from their participation included significant teacher buy-in, personal growth, and an opportunity to reflect on their professional practice.  The following statement from Diane Albanese, one of the workgroup members, captures it best:

“We were invited by the Delaware Department of Education to design assessments that would help to determine student growth. My team of 8th grade Language Arts teachers worked on writing that related to a science article. During the four day workshop we exchanged so much information and it really changed my thinking about my classroom practice.

This was a professional development opportunity that was relevant and valuable. Teachers together creating tests based on our own students’ writing samples, having intense conversations about the nature of writing, and taking away from the table a sense of propriety – we will own this test.”

The Federal Government and Teacher Evaluation

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