School District 65 unveiled a new teacher evaluation system that for the first time takes student achievement into account as part of the process. Superintendent Hardy Murphy said, “There is not another district in this country that will have an evaluation model like this one. It is groundbreaking and I think we all can be proud of it.”

Dr. Murphy told the RoundTable that the ratings a teacher receives under the evaluation system will be used as one factor in deciding whether a teacher is entitled to a track change, which is one element of teacher compensation.

The Evaluation

The District’s evaluation system will use the new version of the Danielson Model to evaluate and rate a teacher on factors such as planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. Assistant Superintendent Susan Schultz said the District has been using the Danielson Model, and teachers were familiar with its approach.

The second element of the District’s evaluation system focuses on student growth. Under the system, if “more students are at and above grade level at the end of the year than at the beginning of the year,” then a teacher’s performance will be deemed excellent; if the same number of students are at and above grade level at the end of the year, then a teacher’s performance will be deemed satisfactory; if fewer students are at or above grade level at the end of a year, then the teacher’s performance will be deemed unsatisfactory.

“The idea here is that every year if more students do better than in the previous year in our District, the bar is being raised every succeeding year with each cohort,” said Dr. Murphy. “This is a very, very powerful model.”

In evaluating whether a student is performing at or above grade level, more than one assessment result or measure will be used, and a different mix of assessment measures may be used at different grade levels.

“There is no one test that is a true indicator of everything a child has learned,” said Dr. Murphy. “So we have a mix of measures to validate progress or lack of progress.”

Dr. Murphy also emphasized that performing work at or above grade level was a different measure than meeting standards on the ISATs. “It’s about grade level, it’s not about meeting or exceeding standards,” he said. “There’s a difference between being at grade level and meeting a certain standard.”

Dr. Murphy told the RoundTable that a rough measure of whether students are at and above grade level is whether the student is at and above 50 percent of students taking a test or a mix of tests.

At the end of each year, the teacher and principal will meet and discuss the ratings under the Danielson Model and student growth model, review the growth trend of the class and consider extenuating circumstances. As a result of this review, a summative rating for each teacher will be determined.

As part of the evaluation process, the principal and teacher are required to set two professional goals for a teacher each year. “The effective implementation of this model includes continuous conversations with principals, teachers and colleagues about the quality of instruction that’s going on in classrooms,” said Dr. Murphy.

Board member Andy Pigozzi asked, “If a teacher does well with low-achieving students and not so well with high achievers, does this model assess that?” Ms. Schultz responded the evaluation system would help a principal identify that by looking at trend data, and the principal could make sure the teacher has supports and addresses the issue.

The new evaluation system is an outgrowth of the teacher contract negotiations conducted last year. The model was negotiated by a joint committee of teachers and administrators, which was facilitated by Audrey Soglin and Bill Attea.

When asked how teachers feel about the new evaluation system, Ms. Schultz said the evaluation model was presented to teachers at each school. “We’ve received very positive feedback at all sites,” she said.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...