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A Report Card on Teacher Evaluation

January 16, 2014 By: Cindy Wolfe Boynton

A recent report by UConn education researchers on Connecticut’s new System for Educator Evaluation and Development (SEED) has the potential to impact every public school student in the state.

“Teachers have been identified as the No. 1 school-level influence on students’ achievement,” says Morgaen Donaldson, assistant professor of educational leadership in the Neag School of Education. “That means for students to score high and reach their full potential, teachers need to score high and work to reach their full potential. So for parents, grandparents, and anyone connected with a child, our work evaluating the SEED program is helping ensure students get the high-quality teachers they need to succeed.”

Mandated by the state General Assembly as part of aggressive legislation passed in 2012 to improve the quality of state schools and raise student achievement scores, the study was conducted by Donaldson and six other researchers from the Neag School’s Center for Education Policy Analysis. Among other results, it concludes that with additional administrative support and better-executed implementation, the SEED model has the potential for “even greater gains.”

Although teacher unions have criticized SEED for basing close to half of a teacher’s performance evaluation on their students’ performance, data gathered from the 14 school districts piloting the evaluation system during 2012-13 show that changes in mindset and practice are essential to the kind of teacher growth and improvement SEED was designed to achieve. These changes include:

Teachers spending more time on self-assessment and goal-setting;
Teachers more carefully considering how to best meet the individual needs and challenges of current students;
Principals and other administrators conducting more frequent classroom visits to observe teachers at work.
More than half of participating teachers and administrators rated their post-observation conferences to be “valuable” or “very valuable.” For both groups, however, the time needed to prepare and take part in rigorous observations, develop lesson plans tailored to individual students, and fulfill other SEED requirements was an issue. In addition, the time and funds required for much-needed professional development were cited in the report as an ongoing challenge.

Improvements recommended by Neag researchers include increased opportunities for teachers to learn about SEED; programs to build the skills and abilities of teacher evaluators; help with teacher goals setting; and a system for the state to continue to track and improve the program.

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