Today, CEC is releasing its new Position on Special Education Teacher Evaluation. Many CEC members have been involved in this process and helped CEC draft this Position but others may wonder why are we discussing this now? Here is how we got to this point in 5 key bullets:
- Recent research demonstrated that teachers are the most important school based factor. In the mid-2000’s several studies demonstrated that teachers are the most important school-based factor in determining student achievement – confirming what educators and parents have known for years!
- At the same time, research also demonstrated that many teacher evaluations were not meaningful. In 2009, a study called The Widget Effect looked at teacher evaluations in 12 school districts across 4 states. The study’s authors surveyed 15,000 teachers and 1,300 administrators and determined that in districts that used binary evaluations (satisfactory/unsatisfactory) 99% of teachers were rated satisfactory. In districts with even more ratings, say up to 4 categories, 94% of teachers were rated satisfactory. These results combined with survey results from teachers demonstrated that evaluation systems of this kind were not offering real and meaningful feedback or making real and meaningful distinctions. Thus, these evaluations were not helping teachers improve.
- Policymakers noticed these results and created federal incentives to revamp teacher evaluation systems. Shortly after the inauguration President Barack Obama, his administration began to offer federal incentives to states and districts that committed to revise their teacher evaluations. Two main programs that incorporated these new objectives were the Race to the Top competition and the waiver application for relief from ESEA/NCLB requirements. Based on these, many states began working on new teacher evaluation systems.
- Including special education teachers in these systems has been difficult and is a work in progress – especially in terms of “objective measures of student performance” is concerned. Federal initiatives that called for revamping evaluation systems also required that new systems include “objective measures of student performance” or link student performance to teacher performance. This has been very difficult in practice for all teachers, but most especially for special education teachers. Special education teachers work in many different roles in schools, with students who display complex learning patterns and their work does not neatly translate to this new paradigm. As a result, CEC has increasingly heard concerns from its members about how their impact on students is being measured and included in their new evaluations.
- In response to these concerns and the needs of the field, CEC worked with members and outside experts to create a position for special education teacher evaluation. You can read CEC’s Position on Special Education Teacher Evaluation here. You can also check out our Background Document which goes into greater detail about this history and gives examples of a few different systems being tested out right now.
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