Though both the USEP and District bargaining teams are eager to reach a settlement ahead of the beginning of the school year, there are a number of things remaining to be addressed. Among them: economics, several language proposals and (one critical sticking point for the instructional contract) teacher evaluations.
The District’s proposed changes to the teacher evaluation MOU are intended to achieve one obvious purpose: reduce the number of teachers receiving “Highly Effective” evaluations. According to the FLDOE report on 2013-2014 evaluation results, Pasco is among a handful of districts with more than 80% of their teachers earning top marks on their evaluations. One might think this level of success would be viewed as a testament to the exceptional work being done in classrooms across the county. If we are to believe the District’s logic, this success rate speaks more to a flawed system than to the hard work invested by teachers and district staff to prepare for and meet expectations.
On June 9th, the District passed a proposal that, by their own accounting, could reduce the teachers earning “Highly Effective” to less than 9%, potentially placing Pasco among the 10 districts with the fewest “Highly Effective” teachers in the state. In spite of USEP’s reasoned arguments against extreme shifts in how evaluations are done, the District’s counterproposal on July 14th showed little to no give on the aspects of their proposal that would radically decrease opportunities to achieve a “Highly Effective” rating.
The District’s proposal includes two critical changes: an adjustment to the weighting of evaluation components, and a change in the thresholds established to identify highly effective performance in observations.
Reducing the Weight Given to Standardized Testing Results
Changes in statute now allow districts greater flexibility in the weighting of Instructional Practices (administrator observations) and Student Performance within the teacher evaluation. Where a 50/50 weighting was required for last year’s evaluation, the districts have been empowered to reduce the weights to no less than one-third. The district’s proposal calls for a shift to 65/35, with more significant value placed on administrative observations.
While reducing the influence of standardized student assessments in teacher evaluations seems like a “no-brainer” for teachers who have traditionally fared very well on administrator observations, there are potential scenarios where a teacher’s overall evaluation results could be negatively impacted by reducing the weight of the Student Performance Measure.
To ensure that any change in the weighting of evaluation components is supported by data, USEP has proposed that the District calculate the summative evaluations with both 50/50 and 65/35, then use whichever results in higher summative scores for the majority of teachers.
Innovating and Thresholds for Observations
According to the District, “inflated” evaluations result from observation thresholds that have been set too low. As evidence, they cite 2014-2015 observation data showing 95% of teachers achieved an Instructional Practices Score in the “Highly Effective” range. Further, they have expressed concern that under the current model a teacher can be designated “Highly Effective” on the Instructional Practices component of the evaluation without ever receiving a single Innovating mark, the top mark on the observation scale.
The district has proposed raising the threshold for “Highly Effective” by requiring that at least 60% of all scorable elements are ranked at the Innovating level.
Feedback from teachers shows that making such a drastic change in the requirements to earn a “Highly Effective” rating on the Instructional Practices Score would be detrimental.
- The definition of Innovating is not universally understood among administrators and teachers (“I’ll know it when I see it” should never be the answer to “what does Innovating look like?”)
- The application of Innovating scores is inconsistent among administrators; what about inter-rater reliability?
- In domains 2-4, Innovating is entirely subjective
- Random observation data samples show that 60% of scorable elements at Innovating is an excessively high performance expectation based on the current infrequency of Innovating scores
Particularly troublesome is the expectation for 60% Innovating in the new domains. The District reports that in the 2014-2015 observations, the number of teachers scoring even a single Innovating mark in domains 2-4 was significantly lower than in domain 1.
at Least 1 Innovating Mark
USEP, acknowledging that the current MOU provides for little differentiation between “Effective” and “Highly Effective”, has proposed requiring a single element scored at the Innovating level for “Highly Effective” in domain 1 ONLY. Domains 2 and 4 thresholds will remain as they were for 2014-2015, and domain 3 (the lowest scoring domain overall) will become part of the additive DP –scored for bonus points only—as we continue to develop our collective understanding of Reflective Practices.
Despite our differences, the USEP and District bargaining teams have already reached some agreement on other aspects of the teacher evaluation MOU, including:
- Observations will be the length of a lesson, not to exceed 50 minutes
- Administrators will provide mid-year feedback for domains 2, 3 and 4
- Teachers working less than half the year plus one day will be observed only for formative feedback
- DP will continue to be additive (bonus points)
Beyond the proposals surrounding evaluations, there are still a number of additional proposals that need to be considered. Nonetheless, we are confident that a resolution will be reached that addresses all major concerns.
As always, USEP will continue to keep teachers informed about progress made in contract negotiations. Please feel free to share your comments, questions, or concerns by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.