Comparing Minnesota’s and Chicago’s proposed teacher evaluation systems

/ 18 September 2012 / eunice

Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio, September 18, 2012 – One major issue remaining to be solved in the ongoing Chicago teachers’ strike is how the district will evaluate teachers – and how test scores and other measures of achievements will be used within those evaluations.

In Minnesota, every district in the state is preparing to have a similar system in place; state law requires the systems to be in place by the 2014-15 school year. In Minnesota, the requirements will include basing 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on test scores or other measures of student achievement in the classroom.

In Chicago, the proposal has been at 45 percent, but the actual percentages aren’t the issue.

It’s how the test scores and other measurements are actually plugged into the formula that is creating the impasse in Chicago. Some union members in Chicago praised the school district’s move on what percentage of test scores will be factored into teacher evaluations, down from the 45 percent proposed to the 30 percent set as the minimum by state law. It also includes an appeals process to contest evaluations. The new evaluations would be phased in over the length of the contract.

Union leaders in Minnesota say this state is creating a much fairer system that doesn’t focus on punishing the teacher. The system focuses on creating something that teachers can actually use to become better teachers.

Tom Dooher, president of the state teachers’ union Education Minnesota, said the model being developed in Minnesota won’t necessarily just use test scores.

“We know an evaluation is more than a test score,” he said. “Why you’re seeing less consternation in Minnesota is because it’s a more holistic approach.”

There’s a group of teachers and other officials who are working on a framework for that system that they’ll submit to the state by year’s end. That framework will be the default model that districts will have to use if they don’t come up with a system on their own.

Mary Cathryn Ricker, the president of the St. Paul teachers’ union, is one of the co-chairs of that task force. She said she appreciates that teachers are very involved in the development now for what will be in place later. She also considers the Chicago proposal more of a ‘gotcha’ model, whereas she feels Minnesota seems to be working towards making it a system that teachers can actually use.

“Traditionally, you will have folks developing an evaluation model in one room and folks developing a year’s worth of professional development in another room – and there hasn’t been an overt connection to either one,” she said. “Now what you’ll see in Minnesota is that the result of your teacher evaluation should drive your professional development decisions, as opposed to those decisions being made independent of each other.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.