About 30 hours later, the Springfield School District 186 transformation officer, felt the intense online training surpassed her expectation in layout, presentation and, most importantly, what she got out of it.
“It was very intense and requires a lot more time and reflection and practice, so it’s not a quick drive by sort of training,” she said. “It does present an opportunity for us to improve ourselves regarding the art and science of teaching and learning.”
The history of evaluator training
The evaluator training and certification process was put into place this summer as required by the Performance Evaluation Reform Act passed in January of 2010. It teaches evaluators key skills of classroom observation, which are used in part to determine whether teachers are rated as excellent, proficient, in need of improvement or unsatisfactory. Those ratings will be used to determine tenure and to guide staff reductions.
The training is being conducted by a Consortium for Educational Change partnership group called Growth Through Learning Illinois that is made up of Charlotte Danielson, Teachscape, the DuPage ROE, Illinois State University and the Wisconsin Value Added Research Center.
Initially, the Illinois State Board of Education estimated that about 4,000 evaluators would receive the training this summer. In reality, it ended up being closer to 13,000, said Mary Jane Morris, executive director of the CEC, which is spearheading the training.
“I think it’s going really well, overall, though it’s not been without its problems,” Morris said. “This is the first time we’ve done anything like this in Illinois and we have the most rigorous system of any state right now. It’s tough.”
Some complaints have centered around the amount of time it’s taking for evaluators to complete the training, but the majority have focused on the fact that the training is online and one section of the testing in particular, Module 2, uses video, which requires high speed internet access.
Lory Pilchik, a spokeswoman for Teachscape, the company that developed Module 2, said the company has been working to fix any problems that arise.
“We are definitely working hard to fix any issues that arise,” she said. “This is high stakes and we understand that people are anxious. It’s very rigorous and there’s a high bar.”
The design of the training
There are two sections of training: One where principals and other evaluators are trained to evaluate teachers and another where administrators are trained to evaluate principals.
The trainings are online and divided into five modules:
- Understand teacher practice
- Validate your knowledge and skills
- Collaborate to improve practice
- Reflect, measure and evaluate
- Understand student growth
Principals and evaluators have to complete the first three modules by Sept. 1.
The second component of the training is the most intense and time consuming. It is made up of an estimated 15 hours of online training followed by about seven hours of assessment. Though, it does take longer for many because one can work at his or her own pace. On average, people are spending 17-20 hours training and an additional seven hours testing.
Those who complete the test will continue to have access to the content for a year so they can refer back to it while putting the skills into practice.
The assessments include video scenarios where the evaluators are able to apply what they’ve been trained on and to practice conducting observations, collecting evidence and assigning a score.
Principals and/or evaluators are allowed two attempts to complete the testing in Module 2. If an evaluator does not successfully complete the test on the first round, CEC offers face-to-face remediation to help them prepare for the second round.
“This is hard and if a principal doesn’t pass, it can impact their pride and confidence. They have to tell their superintendent and school that they haven’t passed and can’t evaluate in their school. So it’s both high stakes and very personal,” Pilchik said.
The Illinois State Board of Education said that it believes that even though there has been some concerns about the number of people passing Module 2, ISBE believes it’s important to keep the process stringent.
“We would contend that it’s up to the districts to address those individuals who do not pass the training process,” said Christopher A. Koch, state superintendent of education. “We have to maintain a thorough and rigorous training program to ensure proper implementation of these new evaluations.”
But most have been successful.
What the numbers show
As of last week, statistics from Growth Through Learning show that since training began in mid-June:
About 61 percent of teacher evaluators have started the training. Of those who have started Module 2, more than 4,500 have passed it and there is about a 4 percent failure rate. About 45 percent have completed Modules 1, 2 and 3 and another 18 percent have completed Module 4.
About 49 percent of principal evaluators have started training and about 31 percent have completed Modules 1, 2 and 3.
“What we’ve had is a massive professional development project that needed to be completed in a short amount of time,” said Matt Vanover, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education.
“You can expect technical issues. We have worked with Teachscape to correct them and it has been an intensive effort by everyone to try to do this. It is a complicated, technical, professional development exercise involving a lot of people. In the end, though, we know in talking to (those) who have completed the training that for many, it is the first time they’ve had a chance to sit down to talk about what good teaching looks like. It’s absolutely beneficial in that way.”
Innovative evaluator training
The training, specifically in Module 2, is based on Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching. The program is a “research-based set of components of instruction, grounded in a constructivist view of learning and teaching.”
It’s designed to provide a foundation for schools or districts to link mentoring, coaching, professional development and teacher evaluation.
“We now have a formalized process that takes out subjectivity and puts in more objectivity,” Vanover said. “It allows people to have a scientific approach to working on these evaluations.”
Desmoulin-Kherat believes the training, while difficult, was “very beneficial.”
“This is serious business and it’s what good teaching is all about. We have to break the cycle of poverty, increase graduation rates, provide data quality. Having this system will, for the first time, get us all on the same page and much more objective than we’ve ever been,” she said.