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Determining Teacher Effectiveness

Calvert County
Administrators and supervisors in the Calvert County (Md.) Public Schools are in the media center learning how to use Formative Action for Teacher Effectiveness to provide differentiated staff development.

While much of the predictive analysis in K12 districts today determines student achievement, some districts are taking it a step further to determine teacher effectiveness. After all, Race to the Top funds require districts to base teacher evaluation in part on student achievement.

“What is the relationship between the professional development of staff and the impact on learning?” asks Woody Dillaha, CEO of Performance Matters, which developed a software tool, Formative Action System for Teacher Effectiveness, or FASTe. “What is the relationship I see in the classroom, and how are teachers engaging students? What is the relationship of teachers with master’s degrees and those that don’t have one and the impact on learning? At the end of the day, the more connections you make, the better the predictive analysis.”

Calvert County (Md.) Public Schools is among those districts using FASTe to determine teacher effectiveness. By state law, says Superintendent Jack Smith, every one of Maryland’s 24 districts must have a pilot teacher evaluation program in place by next August, and student growth must constitute 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. It is not tied to teacher pay just yet, he says, but that’s coming.

Smith says that the FASTe tool has the potential to show him what state assessments can’t, such as if a student advanced from having low basic skills to high basic skills. State assessments, in part, only reveal if a student moved from basic to proficient to advanced.

FASTe provides the foundation for differentiated staff development, which is based on student data. For example, Smith says he can review that data for a class, look at the teacher’s characteristics and determine if there are any noteworthy changes in achievement based on if the teacher has tenure or is male or female. Smith may ask himself in this situation if there is a significant academic difference among boys taught by male teachers as compared to those taught by female teachers. “I can look at a school with an all-female administrative team and see if that seems to have any effect on student achievement,” Smith says. “Like a Rubik’s Cube, I can twist and turn it until I get a picture I want to see. It gives an indication of what the next question or place I want to go should be.”

The district is also training teachers to use FASTe to check benchmarks and to see how each student performed on a particular test. Administrators are evaluating staff development tools, and soon teachers will be able to go online whenever they want to improve their teaching skills. Teachers who use these tools, says Smith, “can teach a child about elapsed time or how to add fractions, and they don’t have to go through an entire PD session. … This is directly related to the data that their own students have produced over the past year.”

Smith says the end goal is to ensure that all students who graduate go as far as possible in their learning. “We want to make sure they are not just barely making it,” he says.