On October 26, 2012, members of VIVA Minnesota Teachers Idea Exchange II presented their report Strengthening Our Practice: A Classroom Teachers’ Approach to Evaluation to members of Governor Mark Dayton’s administration and the MDE Teacher Evaluation Work Group.
Minnesota, like many states, is creating a uniform and mandated teacher evaluation system. To some degree, Minnesota’s evaluation system is in step with federal and national movements insisting that teachers be evaluated based on their students’ performance on standardized assessments. However, Minnesota has, in the legislation, capped the degree that standardized student assessments will count towards a teacher’s evaluation at 35%. As a result, the state is taking the progressive step of weighing options and receiving input before both deciding what the other 65% of a teacher’s evaluation will look like and how to most accurately measure the 35%.
Since education is an issue of paramount importance and teachers are at the front of the line in terms of educating our youth, teacher evaluation is a topic that has garnered a lot of attention among educators and citizens alike in Minnesota. Teachers are the ones who have the most direct contact with children, and teachers are the ones who are responsible for providing quality and meaningful educational opportunities and experiences. Everyone wants to see high quality teachers because that better ensures a top-level education for our youth. No one, though, has higher standards for teachers and their profession than teachers themselves.
As such, these proposed teacher evaluation recommendations are meant to offer guidance in the formation of the evaluation process from the insights and experiences of Minnesota teachers. At times they recommend improvements in the proposed system and at times they offer clarifications. However, what is most relevant and most clear, is that these recommendations are consistent with a strong desire among Minnesota teachers to create a meaningful, purposeful, and enriching teacher evaluation system. If done right, this is an opportunity to strengthen both our profession and the learning of our students.
The recommendations in this report focus on teacher observations, including fairness and equity issues, measurement of teacher effectiveness, including measuring 35% of a teacher’s performance on standardized test scores with Value Added Measures, and the necessity that professional development, along with this evaluation system itself, be fully and sustainably funded by the state.
Recommendations included in this report:
Any evaluation system of teachers must be inclusive and flexible enough to compensate for the diversity in environments, assignments, districts, and classrooms throughout the state.
Professional growth and reflection should be the primary goal of teacher observations and evaluations.
There should be multiple checks to ensure the fairness of the evaluation including training for observers, requiring more than one trained observer for each teacher evaluation, and having a clear and adequate appeals process for teachers.
Provide full and sustainable state funding for all aspects of the teacher evaluation plan from introduction and implementation to review and revision.