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On Feb. 25, the District 65 School Board decided to retain The ECRA Group to provide services for the District in three distinct areas: 1) assist in developing the student growth component of the District’s teacher appraisal system; 2) gather quantitative data to assist in identifying the characteristics of effective teachers; and 3) administer stakeholder surveys. ECRA, an educational research firm, has previously worked with District 65 for several years in administering stakeholder surveys.

The Teacher Appraisal System. District 65 administrators agreed in December 2012 to treat a new teacher appraisal system that had been implemented at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year as a “shadow system” this year. Dr. Murphy said, “It also was agreed to engage the services of an outside research firm to facilitate a process to address teacher and Board concerns prior to implementation in 2013-14.”

Dr. Murphy said the administration and the District Educators’ Council (DEC, the teachers union) agreed to use ECRA as the outside research firm to facilitate this process. The agreement with ECRA will continue through June 30, 2014.

Study of Teacher Effectiveness. Dr. Murphy said the information provided by ECRA will also be used to meet a goal that the Board set for him relating to the improvement of teacher quality in the District. One requirement of that goal is to conduct a study to identify the characteristics of successful teachers in the District, and to use that information to develop a plan to hire and retain teachers who possess those characteristics, to provide professional development to teachers in need of improvement, and to effectively manage separation of unsatisfactory teachers.

Dr. Murphy said ECRA’s analysis of student performance in working on a teacher evaluation system will be used for “the quantitative dimension” of the teacher effectiveness study. He said the quantitative information gathered by ECRA will be used together with qualitative input from principals and other staff to identify the characteristics of effective teachers.

Stakeholder Surveys. Last year, the District conducted two stakeholder surveys, one of which sought perceptions about the District (administered by ECRA), and the second which sought perceptions about specific schools (administered by Paul Brinson). This year the Illinois State Board of Education is requiring school districts to administer the Illinois 5Essentials Survey.

Rather than administer three surveys to each stakeholder group, the District 65 School Board has decided to administer the Illinois 5Essentials Survey (which is required) and an additional survey that could be administered separately or on a combined basis to staff, teachers and parents. A community survey will be administered every third year.

ECRA will administer the additional survey.

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...