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
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