Our reports for the past two months have looked at find­ings regard­ing staffing and work cul­ture from Building Teacher Quality in the Kansas City, Missouri School District, a study by the National Council on Teacher Quality [The full study is avail­able at www.nctq.org]. Previous reports indi­cat­ed that in order for high qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion to take place effec­tive teach­ers must be recruit­ed and trained, and there must be a cul­ture or work envi­ron­ment that pro­motes pro­fes­sion­al­ism and high expec­ta­tions. The study found seri­ous prob­lems in these two areas. This month we briefly review the con­clu­sions relat­ed to per­for­mance eval­u­a­tion and com­pen­sa­tion.

The study found that the Kansas City Public School District does not have a work­able sys­tem for tru­ly eval­u­at­ing teach­ers’ per­for­mance. Teachers receive sat­is­fac­to­ry rat­ings with­out sol­id evi­dence of increased stu­dent learn­ing. The District does a poor job of iden­ti­fy­ing inef­fec­tive teach­ers. In the pre­vi­ous three years only 23 teach­ers received un unsat­is­fac­to­ry eval­u­a­tion. Ninety per­cent of these had received mul­ti­ple years of unsat­is­fac­to­ry per­for­mance.

Twenty-eight per­cent of teach­ers received an “exem­plary” rat­ing. According to the researchers, “It is unlike­ly that 28 per­cent of the District teacher corps is per­form­ing at an exem­plary level….in a dis­trict where three quar­ters of 3rd graders…are not pro­fi­cient in math, clear­ly there is a lack of adult account­abil­i­ty.”

The study also found that obser­va­tions by the prin­ci­pal as a part of the eval­u­a­tion process are often not well con­duct­ed and there­fore not as use­ful as they should be. Not only does the District do a poor job of iden­ti­fy­ing inef­fec­tive teach­ers, it does a poor job remov­ing from the class­room the few teach­ers it iden­ti­fies.

The study rec­om­mends that stu­dent per­for­mance be the pre­pon­der­ant cri­te­ri­on on which teach­ers are eval­u­at­ed, with a team of inde­pen­dent eval­u­a­tors to val­i­date prin­ci­pal eval­u­a­tions. It sug­gests that stu­dent feed­back be a com­po­nent of teacher eval­u­a­tion.

The study also looked at the District’s per­for­mance in deal­ing with teacher tenure, a top­ic around which there cur­rent­ly is con­tro­ver­sy. The District does lit­tle to make tenure mean­ing­ful. Ideally, in effec­tive orga­ni­za­tions, tenure is award­ed to employ­ees who, on the basis of rig­or­ous eval­u­a­tion, achieve a lev­el of true mer­it. It serves as an impor­tant mile­stone for the indi­vid­ual and a tool for build­ing a com­pe­tent teacher corps.

In the Kansas City District achieve­ment of tenure has usu­al­ly involved only stay­ing in the job for five years to earn the salary increase that goes with tenure. The study rec­om­mends a more sys­tem­at­ic process of doc­u­ment­ing teacher per­for­mance against clear stan­dards to allow for a rig­or­ous deci­sion-mak­ing process.

Do the Right Thing for Kids Board Report November, 2012

Do the Right Thing for Kids board watch mem­bers observed and eval­u­at­ed the November 14 and 28 School Board meet­ings. We con­tin­ue to hear much dis­cus­sion about poli­cies, pro­grams, and plans. The fis­cal pic­ture, as report­ed by the finance staff, is pos­i­tive as is the build­ing repur­pos­ing effort. Academic achieve­ment data are mixed. There are some small improve­ments in some areas and loss­es in oth­ers includ­ing read­ing. Board mem­bers con­tin­ue to express con­cern about poor scores. The term “cri­sis” is used by one. They are assured that the staff is work­ing on the prob­lems, and that all the var­i­ous pro­grams are focused on help­ing stu­dents learn.

One observ­er who is a tutor com­ment­ed, “The stats are no shock to those of us who work with the chil­dren every week.” Another said, “The dis­cour­ag­ing news is noth­ing new. The Kansas City Public School District has in recent his­to­ry always been two or more years below grade lev­el in per­for­mance. The account­abil­i­ty road map to accred­i­ta­tion should have been in place in June, not November.” How many of the teach­ers have the skills and moti­va­tion to imple­ment the plans that the admin­is­tra­tion pro­pos­es?

We were told that high­ly suc­cess­ful schools have:

  1. car­ing and stel­lar teach­ers in each class­room
  2. data dri­ven deci­sions
  3. extend­ed learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties
  4. pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment
  5. renew­al of culture—belief that we can and will make a dif­fer­ence

Item 1 is the most dif­fi­cult and the most cru­cial, espe­cial­ly when it comes to teach­ers work­ing strate­gi­cal­ly with indi­vid­ual stu­dents. The study by the National Council on Teacher Quality has made clear the need for rig­or­ous eval­u­a­tion of teach­ers’ per­for­mance in help­ing stu­dents achieve.

The first meet­ing of the month is labeled a work­shop that allows the admin­is­tra­tion to pro­vide infor­ma­tion on pro­grams and out­comes. The sec­ond meet­ing is the busi­ness meet­ing. The busi­ness meet­ing con­tin­ues to be filled with mate­r­i­al not focused on board strat­e­gy, but rather on pub­lic and employ­ee rela­tions, projects like web­site devel­op­ment and cer­tain con­trac­tors. With the grad­u­a­tion rate hov­er­ing around 60 per­cent, there is much aca­d­e­m­ic work to be done. Relentless board lead­er­ship is need­ed.

View the agenda/minutes of this meet­ing
(will open in a new win­dow).

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