Teachers' and Administrators' Perceptions of a New Multi-Measure Teacher Evaluation System in One Large Urban School District in Texas: Implications for School and District Leaders
Smith Moton, Gladys
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The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, and Obama‘s Race to the Top (2009) policy charged districts with increasing academic achievement by improving teacher quality. The problem of teacher quality has plagued the public school system for decades. Stronge and Hindman (2005) suggest, we can greatly improve student achievement if we come to an understanding of what constitutes an effective teacher and then seek out those qualities and behaviors (p. 49). Districts are now compelled to take a closer look at teacher evaluation systems in order to measure teacher quality and effectiveness. Evaluation systems provide the impetus for informing teacher practice, as well as, potentially driving future staff development (Education, 2009). Many states are now requiring teacher ratings to be based on multiple measures of performance, with many states and districts electing to establish performance pay incentive parameters for meeting specific goals (Doherty & Jacobs, 2013). In the backdrop of this transitional educational landscape, at least one large urban school district in Texas embarked upon a project to improve its teacher evaluation system. The 2012-2013 school year marked the deployment of this district‘s newly implemented teacher evaluation system. This newly implemented teacher evaluation system aimed to address both teacher effectiveness and student growth. The purpose of this program evaluation was to: 1) examine teachers‘ and administrators‘ perceptions of the newly implemented teacher evaluation system within a large urban school district and its influence on instructional planning, classroom instruction and professional practice; 2) examine teachers‘ and administrators‘ perceptions regarding the training they received with the newly implemented evaluation system; and, 3) explore teachers‘ and administrators‘ perceptions regarding the newly implemented teacher evaluation system being tied to performance pay. A purposeful sampling of sixteen teachers and five principals from low-performing and high-performing elementary, middle, and high schools within one large urban school district were selected as participants for this study to gain multiple perspectives from teachers and administrators across various contexts. Participants were part of one of the district‘s feeder pattern schools who participated in the pilot year of implementation. Three teacher focus groups were conducted, and each of the five principals were interviewed one-on-one using semi-structured interviews. Transcribed audio recordings from principal interviews and teacher focus groups were coded inductively (Creswell, 2002) and analyzed for emerging themes using the constant comparison method (Glaser and Strauss,1967). Findings revealed teachers and administrators perceived the newly implemented teacher evaluation system to positively influence instructional planning by providing the focus and structure embedded in the Danielson‘s Framework for Teaching and assisting teachers in refining pedagogy. Additionally, both teachers and administrators reported the evaluation system influenced classroom instruction by promoting increased levels of student engagement and moving teachers from teacher-directed instruction to student-driven learning. Findings also revealed the evaluation system provides teachers and administrators opportunities for reflective practice through increased dialog and strengthened relationships. The teachers and administrators perceived some of the training to be overwhelming and confusing due to the large amount of content given at once. Lastly, findings revealed teachers and administrators question the fairness of tying student growth measures to teacher performance pay, and they are unclear about the process for determining teacher performance pay. Implications and recommendations for districts planning to implement new evaluation systems are included in this study. The recommendations include: developing a clear set of teaching standards rooted in best practices for effective teaching when adopting a new teacher evaluation system; assuring the evaluation process encourages frequent observations, goal setting, action planning, and teacher and administrator reflections to promote reflective and improved practice, increased dialog, and strengthened relationships; assuring district leadership across all levels are well-informed regarding the newly implemented teacher evaluation system and are equipped to explain processes and address concerns; forming a district-wide core training team to deliver district-wide professional development rather than relying solely on campus administrators to deliver turn-around training to teachers and other campus level administrators; and, scaffolding training in smaller segments to allow adult learners to synthesis and process information more deeply.