Leaders in Johnston County Schools in central North Carolina knew they needed to find more effective ways to help struggling students, close the achievement gap and meet their core instructional priorities. So they carefully planned a pilot program to choose the best adaptive learning system for the district’s 25,000 K8 students and their educators.
The vast majority of states require student growth and achievement to be factored into teacher and principal evaluations.
But most states and districts are now grappling with the practical realities of implementing those policies, according to the October report “State of the States 2015: Evaluating Teaching, Leading and Learning” from the National Council on Teacher Quality.
With students in grades 3 through 11 spending more than 20 hours per school year on testing, resistance and frustration over standardized assessments and learning standards may have reached critical mass.
In my 10 years of teaching the ninth grade, I have struggled with a certain category of students—the low performers. These are the students who walk into class on the first day of school expecting to fail. They know nothing about me, but I represent every adult who has ever failed them in the past.
Mastery trumps class time in competency-based education models now catching on in more U.S. classrooms—from New England to the Midwest to Alaska.
Students must show they grasp a concept fully before they can move on to the next unit. Those who get a low grade or score can’t advance until extra instruction by a teacher reveals that students demonstrate comprehension, says Susan Patrick, president of CEO of iNACOL.
The organization promotes the new approach through its ComptencyWorks initiative and provides support to schools making the transition.
Education professor Cathy Vatterott says that grades have come to reflect student compliance more than student learning and engagement. In her new book, Rethinking Grading, she advocates for a standards-based approach that more accurately demonstrates learning through mastery.
As an education researcher, I’ve spent more than 15 years conducting nearly 800 meta-analyses of 50,000 studies focused on student learning. The result, which I call Visible Learning, is about understanding the attributes of schooling that truly drive student learning and have a significant impact on achievement.
Student engagement is directly linked to achievement. The higher the engagement, the more successful students are in their work.
The reverse, however, is also true. Howard County Public School System chose to face this challenge head-on through a partnership with Gallup, in which school leaders, educators and students identify their own strengths, then learn ways to leverage those strengths to increase engagement and success in learning and teaching.
State legislation, local culture, industry thought leaders and other factors influence the approach a school district takes in defining evaluation frameworks for teachers, leaders and staff. These variables give rise to an ever-changing set of policies, standards and evaluation rubrics that add to the complexity of educator effectiveness programs.
As states try to bring new rigor and accountability to their teacher evaluation systems, digital video is emerging as one tool for standardizing and enhancing the sometimes perfunctory ritual of classroom observation.
Education advocacy group ASCD is calling for a two-year moratorium on using standardized test results for teacher or school evaluations. The move represents a growing push nationally to cut back on testing and limit its use as an accountability measure because it may not accurately reflect a teacher’s classroom performance.
Instead of quizzes and tests that interrupt classroom activity, many districts and testing companies are working on ways to integrate formative assessments into daily instruction and use technology to gather real-time feedback on student progress.