Teacher Evaluations: What You Need To Know
By Paul Hambleton, MEA Deputy Executive Director
Classroom excitement is growing all over our state. Maine’s public school teachers spend countless hours preparing lessons, conducting classes, and working closely with students to help them learn a myriad of skills from reading and math to advanced chemistry, Latin and human anatomy. Teachers are always looking for ways to improve instruction, find better ways to manage classrooms, and learn more about how to reach kids.
How do we know a great classroom when we see one? What classroom practices enhance student learning? Teacher evaluation has evolved considerably in the past decade. Teachers know that refining classroom technique, improving curriculum, building relationships with kids and all the things we do as teachers, are never-ending challenges. Quality evaluation practices should help teachers understand their own practice and learn how to continue the teaching journey that started with the first day in the first classroom.
Three Different Evaluations
Three different teaching evaluation programs have become more common in Maine in the past few years due to Federal requirements and other factors. Maine state law will soon require districts to adopt formal evaluation processes over the next few years in collaboration with teachers. The three most common evaluation programs are the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), the Danielson Framework for Teaching, and the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model. The three models have many similarities, and all encompass the Interstate Teacher and Support Consortium (InTASC) standards for teacher evaluation. All three are likely to be approved in the near future to satisfy the requirements of the new teacher evaluation law, LD 1858. This new law has some profound changes for teachers: if a teacher is deemed “ineffective” two years in a row after professional assistance and improvement programs have been put into place, the teacher could be dismissed. However most teachers can expect successful evaluations. The evaluation process should be used for professional improvement and support to improve professional practice, not for punitive reasons.
The InTASC Core Teaching Standards correlate with NBPTS, Danielson, and Marzano. InTASC groups ten standards into four categories: The Learner and Learning, Content, Instructional Practice, and Professional Responsibility. These categories are similar to the Domains of teaching used in Danielson and Marzano, and the five core propositions of NBPTS. All three systems are founded on the notion that teachers who adopt the standards and put them into action in their teaching practice will maximize the impact of their teaching on student learning. While teachers cannot influence all the factors that affect student learning, we can take charge of our own classroom practices.
All three models call upon teachers to learn the standards, understand the rubrics used to assess teaching practice, and provide evidence of performance to these standards. Professional development is critical for teachers and their evaluators to understand the evaluation system before it is implemented. In all three models, it is essential that formative evaluations and peer assistance lead to further professional development before summative evaluations are presented.
Evaluations and Action
MEA members in Lewiston, MSAD 55, and many other places are already experimenting with the NBPTS process as part of the Federal TIF grants. Portland schools have adopted the Danielson model and have made some innovative and exciting changes to evaluation process. Other schools are experimenting with the Marzano model, based upon Marzano’s, The Art and Science of Teaching. With the advent of the new teacher evaluation coming into play next year, teachers across Maine will be seeing more of these new systems. MEA will have updates for members throughout the process. MEA members are great teachers. These systems will give us all a chance to take charge of our profession.