Teachers and school leaders in suburban Chicago are doing their homework on new state-mandated evaluation systems.
Last night, they took a lesson from Charlotte Danielson, an international expert in teacher effectiveness, whose detailed framework for classroom observations is being used more and more across the country as districts and states overhaul how teachers are evaluated.
"Teaching is so hard that it’s never perfect," Danielson said as she spoke to a packed auditorium at Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park. "It's part of the obligation of every teacher, every professional, to be engaged in a career-long quest to improve their practice."
Listen to an interview with Danielson about her framework and how it's being used.
Listen to Danielson tell a story about when she was a teacher.
Danielson says training is the “lynch-pin” for assuring the new systems are successful.
But effective training may be a significant hurdle for districts that face financial challenges.
"One way or the other, we have to have enough resources in order to do the evaluation job the right way," said Al Roberts, superintendent of Oak Park District 97. "I’m not sure what that looks like at this point in time."
The state started training people to become certified evaluators this week. Roughly 9,000 people will undergo the online training before next school year.
New state laws require districts to change their evaluation systems and tie them to student achievement in some way. But using student test scores or other achievement measures is controversial and hasn't been well recieved by teachers or their unions.
Kelly Urbanski, a special education teacher at Lockport Township High School District 205, came to hear Danielson speak and said she's not concerned about the new evaluations.
"I really think if you’re a good teacher and you do your job, it’s going to work,” Urbanski said.
Some districts, including Chicago Public Schools, are required to implement the new evaluations this fall. Others have until 2014 or 2016.