A superintendent takes on the challenge of fair teacher evaluation.
In the recent debate about teacher ratings, one point seems to have been lost in all the yelling. While almost everyone agrees it is unfair to judge teachers solely by the test scores of their students, it's been hard to find a reasonable model that does the job. One district that seems to be moving closer to this target is the 13,000-student Albemarle County Public Schools, near Charlottesville, Virginia. This district has been working in data-driven decision-making before the phrase was a buzzword. Talking with Administrator, Pam Moran explains the work accomplished and talks about what's ahead.
Q Albemarle was one of the first districts in the country to start using data. Can you tell us how this started?
Moran: We started doing data in the late '90s, lots of it on paper. But we didn't use it to inform the work we were doing, so when our students first took the Virginia state test, it was a wakeup call. Many schools were looking at criteria-assessed reference, and the achievement gaps were hiding.
Q How did you move into the modern era, and what changes has this brought?
Moran: In 2004, we began creating professional learning communities. The next year, we started to get teachers to move out of the old-style data. We changed our student management system to Schoolnet to make data more transparent for teachers, and they were able to start working with formative assessments inside the system, bringing data to their PLCs. We started to get exponential gains. Our goal is to eliminate our achievement gap, and in some schools, we are almost there.
Q Why is creating a fair teacher evaluation system so hard?
Moran: People really underestimate the time it takes to develop capacity. It's not a one-size-fits-all fix. You have to take the time to look at how individual teachers develop strengths. You take human capital management and student learning data and test it against classroom walkthrough data. Are patterns starting to emerge between what we see teachers doing in the classrooms and how kids ultimately do in the classroom? How does that look against data? We really moved beyond selective response assessments. We asked, What other sources-authentic, open-ended-can we include? How do we get qualitative work about what we know about the whole child?
Watch Pam Moran discusses how to establish a fair teacher evaluation system here.