Chicago unveils new system for rating teachers

Teaching practice, how much students learn, and student surveys will all eventually count toward a teacher's rating.

March 30, 2012

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Chicago Public Schools unveiled a new system for evaluating the performance of its 23,000 teachers Friday.

The school district and the Chicago Teachers Union have been negotiating the new ratings system for four months. In the end, the two sides could not come to agreement on all issues, and the union is not endorsing the plan.

Chicago Public Schools human resources officer Alicia Winckler says the new scheme will give teachers valuable feedback that will help them be better teachers.

“We want to improve schools. We know that our teachers are one of the most critical aspects to improving student learning and changing a child’s trajectory in life.”

The ratings system will be made up of three components; the weight given to each component will vary depending on grade and subject taught. They are:

·         Student growth, measured by improvement on standardized tests and also classroom-based assessments or projects that teachers will help design.

·         Student surveys that ask students specific questions about the teaching and learning going on in their classes (for teachers of 4th through 12th graders).

·         Principal observation of the teacher, scored against a very specific rubric (a modified version of the nationally recognized Charlotte Danileson framework.

Teachers will be rated “distinguished,” “proficient,” “basic,” or “unsatisfactory.”

The biggest part of a teacher's rating will be based on the principal’s observation.  Student growth will gradually increase in importance until it makes up 35-40 percent of a teacher's grade in the 2016-17 school year. Value-added test scores will never make up more than 25 percent of a teacher's evaluation.

Still, the value added scores are one reason the Chicago Teachers Union would not sign onto the plan. The union says the scores, which are supposed to control for student poverty and other factors beyond a teacher’s control, are not reliable. A 2010 Mathematica Policy Research study found a 25 percent error rate in value-added scores—and that study looked at scores averaged over three years. The union pushed unsuccessfully for an appeals process to the new system.

Carol Caref, who directs the union’s efforts to improve teaching, said there are more fundamental issues at play.

“The whole hullabaloo over teacher evaluation is based on the wrong assumption that if we can just get teacher evaluation right, then we can fix the schools. I wish that CPS would put more effort into things we know are going to make a difference, like smaller classes or providing schools with needed supports.”

Caref says teachers would not oppose using student growth to rate teachers if there were an accurate way to measure that growth.

A 2010 state law requires all Illinois school districts to come up with a new rating system that incorporates student growth as a “significant” factor, with low-performing districts coming on-line first. Chicago was required to put the system in place in 300 schools by September, but instead it will roll out to all schools. CPS will rate non-tenured teachers first, as well as any tenured teachers who received a low rating on their most recent performance evaluation.

The vast majority of Chicago teachers were rated either “excellent” or “superior” under the current system, which was part of the impetus for change.

See EXTRAs below for: (1) the schedule for implementing the new teacher evaluation system, and the weight given to each component; (2) the current teacher evaluation checklist used to evaluate teachers; (3) the new CPS framework for evaluating a teacher’s practice.