District 65 administrators recently reached an agreement with the District Educators Council (DEC, the teachers union) that all teachers will be deemed to be “proficient” this year in terms of developing students’ academic growth. This virtually assures that almost all teachers will receive an overall rating of “proficient” or “excellent” under the District’s teacher appraisal system in the 2015-16 school year.

District 65 has for a long time used the Danielson Framework to evaluate teachers based on factors such as planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities (the “professional practice” component).

In June 2009, the District began to consider student growth as an additional factor in evaluating teachers. Three years later, the District announced it would impose a new model to measure student growth. After strong opposition from teachers, that model was put on hold, and the District retained the ECRA Group to help design a new model to measure student growth. The ECRA growth model was implemented in the 2013-14 school year.

For the 2013-14 school year, using the ECRA growth model, 8% of the District’s teachers were rated “excellent” and 92% were rated “proficient” in improving student academic growth. No teacher was rated “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” using the model.

Teachers received these student growth ratings despite the fact that the percent of all students in the District meeting growth targets on the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test dropped by 4.3 percentage points in reading and by 9.4 percentage points in math in the 2013-14 school year from the prior year.

In a Sept. 17 memorandum provided to School Board members, Beatrice Davis, assistant superintendent of human resources, said, “District 65, like other districts across the state and nation, has faced challenges incorporating student growth into its appraisal system.”

In the spring of 2015, the administration, DEC, and the District’s Joint Evaluation Committee agreed that classroom level growth for all teachers will be deemed “proficient” for purposes of the teachers appraisal system. “This was done,” Ms. Davis said, “to reduce assessment fatigue for students and teachers, eliminate the need to create and sustain a separate student growth model for approximately 200 teachers who were not covered by the previous model (social workers, TWI teachers, self-contained special education teachers, etc.) and provide a stable system while the Joint Evaluation Committee enters into Performance Appraisal Reform Act (PERA) negotiations.”

For the 2015-16 school year, the District will continue to use the Danielson Framework to evaluate a teacher’s professional practice, and the District will use a matrix to combine a teacher’s professional practice rating with her or his student growth rating of “proficient” to determine an overall rating.

The matrix gives teachers the benefit of the higher rating if the professional practice and the student growth rating differ. Under the matrix, assuming a teacher’s student growth rating is proficient:

• If a teacher receives a rating of “excellent” on professional practice, the teacher’s overall rating will be “excellent.”

• If the teacher receives a rating of “proficient” on professional practice, the teacher’s overall rating will be “proficient.”

• If the teacher’s rating on professional practice is “needs improvement,” the teacher’s overall rating will be “proficient.”

• If the teacher’s rating on professional practice is “unsatisfactory,” the teacher’s overall rating will be “needs improvement.”

For the 2013-14 school year, teachers received overall ratings as follows: 73% of the teachers were rated “excellent,” 26% were rated “proficient,” and 1% were rated “needs improvement.” No teacher received an overall rating of “not qualified.”

Under PERA, all school districts must establish a joint committee to negotiate a collaboratively designed teacher appraisal system that includes student growth as a significant factor. While District 65 has had a joint committee that has been discussing a teacher appraisal system for several years, it has not formally formed a committee under PERA to conduct PERA negotiations.

Ms. Davis said, “We anticipate this negotiation process to begin in November 2015. Once we begin PERA negotiations, the committee will have 180 calendar days to agree upon an appraisal system. If the committee does not reach an agreement, we must default to the Illinois State Model which, at this point in time, requires a teacher’s summative rating to consist of 50% professional practice based on Danielson and 50% student growth based on Student Learning Objectives (SLOs).”

A detailed article on ECRA’s growth model is available through the online version of this article at evanstonroundtable.com.