These two paragraphs, from the middle of the Aspen Institute’s new report on DC’s IMPACT teacher evaluation system, help to illuminate the challenge of connecting evaluation with teacher support and professional development:
The tension around the Master Education (ME) role is reflected in their relationships with instructional coaches (the people whose primary job responsibility is to support teacher development) and principals. Because of their role in evaluating teachers, MEs are part of the administrators’ union. For this reason, the Washington Teachers’ Union worked to establish a firewall between MEs and instructional coaches, discouraging communication between the two groups. So while MEs know a lot about the skills and talents of teachers and the areas where they would most benefit from support, they aren’t able to share this information with coaches, who are responsible for supporting teacher development. As a result, the support teachers are getting from coaches is less focused and effective in raising their level of performance than it could be. In the end, teachers pay the price because the formal observations continue and scores are calculated whether teachers are getting differentiated support based on evaluation data or not. And this dynamic reinforces a sense, on the part of many teachers, that the Teaching and Learning Framework is really just about accountability.
The relationship between MEs and principals is similarly guarded. They observe and assess the same teachers, but there is little collaboration or coordination between MEs and principals, largely to ensure the objectivity and integrity of both people’s evaluation ratings. MEs do not see principals’ scores and they don’t discuss their scores until they have written their report and debriefed with the teacher. Occasionally, the principal requests support from MEs for specific teachers; this most commonly happens when the ME has expertise in a high-needs area, e.g. special education or high school science. MEs’ success relies in part on their ability to be and be perceived as neutral third parties in the evaluation of teachers. This requires carefully negotiating relationships with principals and instructional coaches.
More on the policy dilemmas for DC IMPACT from the Washington Post’s Jay Mathews and the teacher bloggers at our event last year, Finding the Link: Teacher Evaluation and Professional Development.