What Teachers Are Saying

Educators, Legislation | 11/15/2016

Jessica Handy
Government Affairs Director

Jessica advocates at the state capitol for fair school funding and equitable education policies.

In 2010, a new law was enacted that aimed to improve student learning AND make Illinois more competitive for a federal grant called Race to the Top. We lost out on the first couple of rounds of the competition, but the work has been underway for a few years now and this year, that law is finally coming to statewide fruition this school year!

I’m talking about the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA), which dramatically improved the way teachers and principals were evaluated. It did a few pretty major things, like requiring evaluators had to go through a rigorous new training, and incorporating student growth in principal and teacher evaluations. Almost seven years after the law was signed, this year is the first time that every school in the state will use the new PERA evaluations.

So as we head into the final year of implementation, we thought it would be useful to flag this recent report by the Consortium of Chicago School Research that shows how these new evaluations are working on in CPS, which was one of the first districts to move to the new evaluations in 2012.

So how’s it working? Pretty well! Most administrators (over 80%) and teachers (60%) think these evaluations help improve learning in their school. About 90% of teachers said their evaluator was fair and that it encouraged reflection. REACH evaluations are based 70% on professional practice and 30% on student growth, through some combination of test score and performance task growth. Most teachers (76%) believe that classroom observation is a fair way to evaluate their teaching, while 42% believe growth measured by performance task is fair and 30% believe that growth calculations measured by performance on NWEA and EPAS standardized tests are fair.

It’s not all good news: The downside is that 77% of teachers say it has increased their stress or anxiety and 67% say it takes more time than it is worth. So, while there’s a lot of agreement that it is improving practice in our schools, it isn’t necessarily easy for our educators, who are working in under-funded schools with under-served populations of students in an environment filled with instability.

But all in all, three years in, this new system is showing a lot of promise. We are hopeful that thoughtful evaluations across the state will mean more collaborative relationships, reflection on practice, and improved student learning.

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