For the first time in North Carolina, parents will not only be able to see their kids’ grades online but also an evaluation of their school’s teachers.
The evaluations released earlier this month are for the 2010-11 school year and only include teachers in their first three years or tenured teachers renewing their license.
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction promised to release the teacher evaluation data in its application for Race to the Top, a federal competition that awarded nearly $400 million in education funding to the state in 2010.
Rebecca Garland, chief academic officer of the department, said the evaluations were designed to help teachers identify areas for improvement, not to dismiss a teacher.
Teachers are rated by their school’s principal on standards including leadership, knowledge of the content they teach and self-reflection. The superintendent then evaluates the principals.
Individual teachers are not identified in the evaluations posted online, which can be accessed as a link from www.ncreportcards.org.
Allison Stewart, a senior in the UNC School of Education, is currently a student teacher at Carrboro Elementary. She said the School of Education emphasizes reflection and self-evaluations.
“As annoying as we tend to find it — reflecting on everything — it really can be helpful,” she said. “There are teachers who aren’t effective, and they need to know that they aren’t effective. Because the students deserve a teacher who’s going to help them.”
Evaluations for the 2011-12 school year will be released this fall — the same time school report cards are released — and will include every teacher, Garland said. An additional standard will measure student growth.
Garland said they will present information about the additional standard and recommend a tool to measure student growth at the N.C. Board of Education meeting this week.
Gary Henry, a public policy professor at UNC and director of the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina, said the Carolina Institute for Public Policy provided an external review of the various methods to calculate student growth.
It is also doing classroom observations of a random sample of teachers to measure the reliability of principals’ evaluations.
Henry said the validity of the evaluations will improve after principals have had a few years to practice using the tool.
“This takes training on the part of principals, and practice,” he said.
Garland said the department will hire a staff member to help improve the reliability of the data and work with principals to standardize their responses to the evaluations.
The evaluation system has essentially been converted from a tool for professional development to a means of improving transparency, Henry said.
“It’s really being retrofitted, in a way, for a purpose that it wasn’t necessarily designed to fulfill,” he said. “It can probably do it, but there may need to be refinements in order to work out all the issues with it.”
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