By Matthew Tungate

Within the next couple of years, teachers and principals across Kentucky will be using an evaluation system that more objectively identifies their strengths and weaknesses, and provides “just-in-time” feedback to make improvements throughout the school year.

The Kentucky Department of Education, along with several partners and 50 school districts, is in the second year of a three-year plan to develop the Professional Growth and Evaluation System (PGES). Once implemented, the plan will count as 10 percent of a school’s and district’s score in the Unbridled Learning: College and Career Ready for All accountability system.

Commissioner Terry Holliday told the Interim Joint Education Committee of the state legislature that the current system evaluates teacher qualifications rather than effectiveness, and that nearly all teachers are rated highly qualified despite most students not scoring has highly as educators would like on state and national tests.

“We want to move to highly effective measurements,” Holliday said.

Associate Commissioner Larry Stinson outlined the PGES to the Kentucky Board of Education at its August meeting.

“We try to remind ourselves quite frequently that everything we’re talking about is centered around student learning. The question is, where does that occur? How does that happen?” he asked. “It happens, for the most part, in classrooms. That makes it just so critical that we have effective teachers or effective teaching in classrooms interacting with those students. Up until now, the measures that we have used to determine whether we have effective teaching or even effective leading occurring in schools and classrooms have been pretty much ineffective.”

Michael Dailey, director of the Division of Next-Generation Professionals, said research and best practices indicate current evaluation systems are primarily summative in nature and limit principals to few or single observations to assess classroom teachers at the end of the year. Thus these systems have offered little or no professional guidance to improve practice.

“We’re trying to build a system that supports the growth of the teacher. We’re trying to build a system that says, ‘If I receive the additional support, if I receive the coaching and mentoring that I need, I can not only improve practice, but I can impact what happens with my students.’ That’s the system we’re designing,” he said.

The new system will be both formative – providing information to teachers so they can improve their practice – and summative – by the end of the year teachers should meet certain standards based on making improvements established during formative evaluations, Dailey said.

“We’re trying to focus more on the growth of the educator and the principal rather than at the end of the year, one-time, pass or fail approach,” he said.

Stinson said the result should be “every student taught by an effective teacher and every school led by an effective leader.

“In order to do those things, we have to know what it means to be effective,” he said.

Last year, Holliday convened two steering committees – one for principals, one for teachers – made up of educational partners, including principals and teachers.

“As we established this, we had one guiding principle: we wanted a system based on professional growth,” he told the state board.

Holliday asked the Teacher Effectiveness Steering Committee to develop a model “that would promote teacher growth, increases in student learning and a holistic approach to defining effective teaching.”

“I asked that group to develop a growth system that would promote the growth of teachers so they could enhance student growth and learning. Bottom line – I asked them to create conditions for a learning system for all (administrators, teachers and students) rather than a teaching system that focused on checklists and little feedback for growth,” he said.

To get started, 25 volunteer districts each reviewed an aspect of a “springboard rubric” based on research, Dailey said. District teams of teachers, principals and administrators tackled a specific domain. Then the districts met regionally to discuss all the domains and make proposals to the state steering committees.

The state steering committees reviewed those recommendations, and the Teacher Effectiveness Framework and Principal Effectiveness Framework were developed.

“We aren’t designing anything without teacher and principal voices,” Dailey said. “In fact, the design takes place at the grassroots level.”

The steering committee is charged with oversight and guidance; the districts are charged with design, development and implementation, he said.

“There are many things that we have done over the years, not just in Kentucky but nationwide, that said, ‘This is for the teachers,’ and then someone goes off and designs it and then asks, ‘What do you think?’ We don’t ever want to be in that situation,” he said. “Local districts have the opportunity to truly design, develop and deploy. The state is facilitating the process so that their voices, their ideas, their concerns are heard, understood, conveyed and then demonstrated through how the system is coming together.”

Characteristics of good teaching
While called rubrics, what the volunteer districts and the steering committees actually have developed are definitions and descriptors of how a spectrum from ineffective to exemplary teaching would look using standards and descriptors, Stinson said.

“What’s been developed is a description of what it means to be effective, and what it means to be in various places within movement across that description,” he said. “Are you ineffective at this point, are you progressing, are you accomplished, or are you exemplary?”

As Stinson told the state board, the six measures of effective teaching so far are:

1. Observation protocols – typically what people think of as teacher and principal evaluations.

“What’s the tool that the principal’s going to take into the classroom two or three or four times a year and do some check marking, and at the end of the year, you have a conference with the teacher and you’ve decided that teacher is worthy of rehiring, or whatever?” he said. “We want to raise the level of that.”

The state wants to focus on what really affects student learning. “We haven’t designed the observation protocols yet,” Stinson said.

2. Artifacts and evidence – the new system will not ask teachers and principals to create something new, but to use what exists or will exist because of other work they are doing that will support making judgments about teacher or leader effectiveness, Stinson said.

This is where the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS) will come in, where teachers will be doing work around lesson planning, giving results of interim testing, seeing what the results show and documenting what the teacher has done with those results, he said.

“But we don’t want them to have to do something special and extra,” Stinson said.

3. Professional growth – all educators are required to get four days of professional development, but “that doesn’t necessarily lead to professional growth,” he said. “Growth needs to be rooted in student-learning needs exhibited in the classroom.

“What we hope to incorporate into this model is, ‘What has the teacher or principal done to assess where things need to be improved, and then what have they done to make those improvements?’ We have to figure out how to do those things.”

4. Student growth – “this is a huge issue on how can we incorporate that into measuring teacher effectiveness or effective teaching,” Stinson said.

Many models are being tried and tested, but they all have challenges, he told the board.

“We want to be very careful with this and have it be very useful as we move forward, in terms of incorporating student growth,” Stinson said. “I think there’s general agreement that if students aren’t learning, it doesn’t matter how well you taught the lesson.”

5. Analysis and reflection – this is about whether self-assessment or conversation with peers or a teaching coach will affect a teacher’s overall effectiveness rating.

6. Student/parent voices – “Very interesting early research shows that student survey information has a very high correlation to student success in terms of achievement,” Stinson said.

Next steps
This year, the steering committees and volunteer districts (including 25 new ones) will be designing data-collection tools for the multiple measures, Stinson said. Also this year, an outside vendor will be working with the committees and districts to measure the validity and reliability of the system.

“We thought it was very important that this not be totally KDE-driven,” Stinson said. “What we’re doing needs to be developed by people in the field, folks who are directly impacted by the work and who will actually be implementing the results once we get them spelled out.”

Ideally, Stinson said, the data-gathering instruments will be designed and the system found to be valid and reliable by the end of this school year. PGES would then be tested statewide in 2012-13 and used for accountability in 2013-14. However, that could be pushed back a year if problems arise during the pilot, he told the board.

Holliday told board members that there are two ways to implement PGES. One is through legislation that would require the board to implement a statewide teacher- and principal-effectiveness system by a certain day. Similar legislation was introduced last year but not approved, though Holliday told the board he expects it to be introduced again this year.

The other option is for the board to review and approve all district models for teacher and principal effectiveness, requiring them to meet certain standards. Districts could either accept the state model or develop one of their own that meets the standards.

Michael Dailey,, (502) 564-1479, ext. 4018