Improving student achievement through a new evaluation system

Teacher evaluation is a vital component to improving student learning. It seems obvious that quality instruction should produce positive gains for students, and that if the instruction is poor or ineffective the effect on learning is detrimental. Research which has been done to show the influence teachers in the classroom have on student achievement tells us that we must not discount the importance of good teaching. We know that if we want to improve student learning we must improve instruction, and the main purpose of an overall evaluation system for teachers is to do just that. There is nothing more important than an effective teacher in improving student achievement.

There are two main components of teaching that can be measured. They are the art of teaching and the science of teaching. The science of teaching deals with many of the procedural processes that teachers have in place such as classroom management, lesson planning, establishment of classroom rules and the ability to carry out things of this nature. These are very important components that must be in place to create a good learning environment.

The other component necessary to create high levels of learning is the art of teaching. The art of teaching is the way instructional strategies are utilized by the teacher, the actual delivery of the lesson, the type of questions used and the manner in which the curriculum is delivered in the classroom, etc. This is much more difficult to measure in an observation, but it is this component that directly relates to student achievement. An effective teacher must use effective instructional strategies, utilize effective classroom management procedures and must have effective curriculum design.

Many schools in our state have been using evaluation systems that are successful in identifying the effective characteristics of teaching, but one of the main problems is that different districts may be using different systems. We are bound by the same documents in our current evaluation system, but the manner in which we determine if a teacher is or is not effective may not be the same across our state. A new evaluation system will be implemented officially during the 2013-2014 school year for all New Mexico Public schools. Over 60 schools, including all the schools in the Aztec Municipal School District, will be piloting some components of the new evaluation system this school year. 

One of the most positive aspects of the new system will be the ability to recognize exemplary teachers. In our current system there are only two measurements:

1. Does not meet competency

2. Meets Competency 

The new system will have five indicators that will include the following measures: Ineffective, Minimally Effective, Effective, Highly Effective and Exemplary. The criteria used to rate teachers in both the art and the science of teaching will be different.

The new evaluation system will center around four main domains:

1. Planning and Preparation

2. Classroom Environment

3. Instruction

4. Professional Responsibilities.

With the implementation of the new system there are three major components that will determine the effectiveness level of a teacher: student achievement data, observations, and other measures. Our current system has many similarities, but in the new system a student achievement component of teacher and growth will make up a large portion of each teacher’s rating. We aren’t sure exactly how the student achievement component will be measured for teachers who are in grades or subjects not tested on the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment, but that information will be coming soon.

Another change from our current system will be the number and length of formal observations that occur in the classroom. Currently, formal evaluations are about 45 minutes in length, must occur at least once per year and there must be agreement on when a teacher will be observed. The new framework suggests that there are three to four formal evaluations that are about 20 minutes in length and are a combination of announced and unannounced observations.  The “other measures” will consist of student and parent surveys. This new framework is still being developed by the NMTEACH committee and will be the main focus of those schools piloting the evaluation system.  

The actual evaluation of the teacher is only 25 percent of their overall rating but is, in my opinion, the most important piece of the new system. This new focus on student achievement is going to call for a shift in the work of administrators. Instead of finding time to observe and do walkthroughs, administrators must make those their top priority. This will not be easy to do, but with improved student learning being our fundamental purpose, it is a change that must take place.