Our goal is to help all FEA members deliver the highest level of instruction to the students we serve.
In April of 2011 the Virginia Department of Education, in order to meet federal regulations, revised the Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria for Teachers and the Virginia Standards for the Professional Practice of Teachers to become effective July 1, 2012. The state recommended that 40% of a teacher’s evaluation be tied to student growth. For more information on the State requirements, go to www.doe.virginia.gov
One part of the requirement is that a portion of each teacher's evaluation be based on student progress data from his/her classes. Only 30% of teachers (mostly elementary) have SOL's from prior years for measuring how far their students have come in a year. Unfortunately, 60-70% of teachers do not have state measurements to use for reporting their students' growth. Free standing, single SOL results are considered to measure achievement but not growth, and many teachers don't have those.
FCPS formed a task force to work on the development of an instrument that would bring us in compliance with the state requirements. The FEA had 10 members serving on the FCPS Teacher Evaluation Task Force. The FEA members on the task force reached out to colleagues. They were looking for the ways teachers already assess (common assessments, standardized tests, portfolios, performance criteria, etc.) that might serve as the needed sources of data which could be used for the most fair evaluations possible.
The task force met twice a month throughout the school year to meet the timeline for full implementation in July 2012. Upon adoption of the proposed teacher evaluation system, the FEA submitted a “minority report” to the school board articulating their objections. The report stated:
The Fairfax Education Association believes that teachers deserve a high quality evaluation system that provides the tools teachers need to continuously tailor instruction, enhance practice and advance student learning. The FEA was represented on the FCPS Teacher Evaluation Task Force and commends the work of the task force members. The process was a true collaboration and should serve as a model for future work in FCPS. We particularly applaud the work of the primary facilitators, Leslie Butz and Denny Berry. They had a very challenging assignment, and they handled it with great skill.
As seems to be the case more and more in public education, we operated under directives and guidelines from the Virginia Department of Education and the United States Department of Education. Many of the objections we have can be tied back to the basic assumptions and timelines provided by the federal and state guidelines.
At both the federal and state level, the teacher evaluation mandate is part of a group of recently politically promoted ideas which maintain that:
· The public school system is broken
· Teacher quality is inferior and needs improvement
· Students of good teachers will always show highest performance scores, and
· Low student performance is almost exclusively the result of individual teachers.
Many of these presumptions are not true about public schools and teachers in general, but they are especially not true of Fairfax County.
1. Fairfax County is well functioning, as evidenced by its many high ranking schools.
2. Fairfax County teachers are of a remarkably high quality, with more than 60 percent holding a Master’s degree and many working substantially more hours than contracted with no added remuneration.
3. Many Fairfax teachers opt to work with high risk students to help those students reach maximum growth, though those teachers could receive higher recognition and growth numbers from teaching advanced academic or students with more comfortable SES status.
4. In Fairfax the outcome for any individual student is often strongly influenced by multiple teachers who work on his instructional team. Also, studies show that though teachers are a major factor in student performance many variables influence levels of student success, including socio-economic factors, school management factors, school size, class size, and elements as basic as attendance.
Because Fairfax County is an especially successful district, and enjoys a nationwide reputation, it has an opportunity and an obligation to speak out on behalf of its own teachers and students to insist on a teacher evaluation system that does not buy into false assumptions about our schools.
The Teacher Evaluation Task Force has done a remarkable job of analyzing the needs and possibilities for Fairfax’s mandated new Teacher Evaluation System. However, due to time limitations and the press of state and federal deadlines, a number of concerns which were raised, acknowledged and considered during the process have not been resolved, such as:
· Evaluator reliability; the need for multiple evaluators or some systemic safeguards for rater reliability in a highly subjective process
· Increased time demands on already overloaded AP’s and principals for added observations and increased numbers of conferences
· Increased work load on teachers for developing and tracking data in more sophisticated ways than are needed for basic instructional design
· The complexity and specific steps in implementation, which have all been left to HR on a very short timeline
· What number of “needs improvement” or low ratings might trigger intervention or conditional reappointment? The task force has not resolved whether a lone “ineffective” rating against six “effective” or “highly effective” ratings would trigger conditional appointment
· Similarly, what would be the threshold for a highly effective overall rating; both high and low ratings need guidelines.
With all these outstanding issues and with the state re-applying for a waiver which would include extra time before implementation, field testing the training and piloting implementation are imperative.
As it stands FCPS staff has less than two months to:
a. Resolve many of the issues above
b. Determine how changes are going to affect HR rules surrounding conditional reappointments and intervention teams
c. Develop curriculum, personnel, and systems for training of evaluators and training teachers. (Though a PowerPoint/podcast is planned, one tool alone cannot fully answer the need for training so many regarding such a comprehensive new program.)
d. Develop materials for distribution—new manuals, handbooks, and guidelines
e. Get the evaluators and teachers on evaluation this year trained and ready.
Both the National Education Association (NEA) and the Virginia Education Association (VEA) have websites that are rich with resources and the latest information that will be helpful to you.
NEA offers lesson plans, information on classroom management, teaching strategies and advice and support. Go to www.neamb.org and click on Professional Resources for classroom tips and the NEA Academy for assistance with professional development.
NEA also offers information on grant opportunities, Read Across America activities and information on national issues and legislative issues. NEA:www.nea.org or to check out the NEA Foundation go to www.neafoundation.org
VEA’s website offers classroom tips, new teacher assistance, resources for gaining national board certification, upcoming training and workshops as well as discounts on supplies and materials. VEA: http://www.veanea.org
The Fairfax Education Coalition (FEC) is a network of parents, teachers and community members dedicated to strengthening public involvement with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). The coalition monitors and reports n the actions of the FCPS administration and school board to increase public awareness. The will advocate for improved accountability, transparency and community engagement in the FCPS decision making process. FEC: http://www.FairfaxEducationCoalition.org
Teacher Union Reform Network: www.turnexchange.net
National Center for Education Statistics: www.nces.ed.gov
Mid Continent Research for Education and Learning : www.mcrel.org
National council of Urban Education Associations: www.nea.org/home/1610.htm
Screen Actors Guild Story online (good site for elementary teachers: www.storyline.net