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CPS’ New Teacher Evaluation System Has Serious Flaws; Not Endorsed by CTU

03/29/2012

After four months and countless hours of bargaining, tonight the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) presented the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) with its “last best offer” for its new teacher evaluation plan.  The CTU does not endorse the new system. 

The Performance Evaluation Review Act (PERA), passed in January, 2010 gives CPS the right to make the final decision about the new teacher evaluation system mandated by PERA.  “This new system is deeply flawed, is unfunded and lacks an appeal process for educators who believe they have been unfairly evaluated,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “We do not understand how the District can even implement a far-reaching evaluation plan without the funding in place.  We support high standards.  We want what is best for our students.  We believe, however, that hurried implementation of an unproven and potentially harmful evaluation system will result in inaccurate assessments of our teachers and decreased learning among our students.” 

POINTS OF CONTENTION

The Union’s primary objection to the new evaluation system is timing. There are many new components to teacher evaluation, on top of other new CPS initiatives being implemented in public schools. CTU asked CPS to delay implementation of teacher evaluation at least a year, and pilot the various components to learn how to best implement them and to give teachers an opportunity to become familiar with them in a low-stakes environment. The Performance Evaluation Review Act (PERA), passed in January, 2010 gives CPS the right to make the final decision about the student growth provisions of new teacher evaluation system mandated by law after good faith cooperation with the CTU and requires them to bargain over the plan. 

Another objection we have to the CPS evaluation system is the use of “value added.” A value added score is given to a teacher based on the difference between student test scores at the beginning and at the end of the school year, relative to scores of other teachers. The value added metric is supposed to account for important student variables (for example, poverty or IEP status) so that the remaining difference in initial and ending student test scores can be attributed to the teacher. Value added is unreliable—a teacher could be scored excellent one year and unsatisfactory the next—and it is a ranking--those with the lowest “value added” score always lose out, no matter how much they’ve helped students. CTU is one of many critics of value added telling CPS not to make it part of teacher evaluation.

One other problem with the system is that CPS would not agree to what CTU considers to be a reasonable safety net. CTU’s plan was to hire peer observers. They would serve as a check on principal observation scorings, especially for teachers with low observation scores. CTU also proposed an appeals process. CPS did not agree and have proposed instead measures that will only call for a review of scores in the most extreme cases.

The new observation system is an improvement over the checklist system currently in place, which allows principals to give teachers whatever summative ratings they want because there is nothing that links the checkmarks to particular ratings. Additionally, the checklist does not give teachers information about their pedagogical strengths and weaknesses and principals are not required to have substantial pre- and post-conferences with each observation. The new classroom observations will consist of a collection of evidence about your practice, using the Charlotte Danielson Framework (http://www.danielsongroup.org/).

Focusing so heavily on standardized testing (student growth) will lead to a narrowing of curriculum and teaching to the test. “It also undermines art and music education which is essential to a having a well-rounded education,” Lewis pointed out.

CTU will continue to work with CPS to help smooth the transition to the new system, even as it continues to push for evaluation practices that will better serve our members and our students.

Chicago Teachers Union