March 30, 2012
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today announced REACH Students (Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago’s Students) a new, comprehensive teacher evaluation system, designed over the course of 90 hours of meetings in collaboration with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), that will provide teachers with unprecedented tools and support to improve their practice and better drive student learning.
The thoughts, suggestions and ideas from thousands of teachers across the district helped establish the foundation of this system. Each component of our new evaluation system - Teacher Practice, Student Learning and Student Feedback - is grounded in the feedback from CPS educators, as well as research and experiences from districts across the country. REACH will replace the current 40-year-old outdated evaluation system that is disconnected from the needs and vision of today’s teachers and classrooms.
“This is an exciting and historic day for the Chicago Public Schools as we launch this new approach in recognizing and supporting our teachers for all the work they do on behalf of our students,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “We know that teachers are the single most critical lever for boosting student learning. As a District, it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to support and empower them through their journey of putting every student on the path to success in college and career—that’s what REACH does.”
The current outdated evaluation system, established in the 1970s, does not reflect the needs of today’s teachers, acknowledge or assess their impact on student learning, or provide them with meaningful guidance and supports. Rooted in just a single measure for evaluating teacher performance, today’s evaluation system is based on a checklist of subjective, surface level details such as references to clothing, administrative tasks and bulletin boards. With such subjective standards, the basis for observations leaves teachers unclear on expectations, and without proper guidance for improvement.
State law, signed in January 2010, provided an opportunity for the district to overhaul this outdated system. The Illinois Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA), supported by both CPS and CTU, mandated that CPS install a comprehensive teacher evaluation system that is inclusive of both teacher practice and student growth as a “significant factor” by the fall of 2012 in at least 300 schools. The law requires that student growth account for a minimum of 25% of the evaluation. CPS will be implementing for all teachers in all elementary schools in fall 2012.
As a first step in designing this new system, CPS sought the direct feedback from teachers about what they wanted and needed from an effective evaluation system. Between April and June of 2011, CPS conducted focus groups with more than 200 schools across the district. In that time, they received feedback from 2,300 teachers from all across the City of Chicago, representing all grades and subjects. CPS teachers overwhelmingly agreed that the current system was not beneficial and did not help them improve their practice. Teachers wanted a system that more actively engaged them in the process, and provided them with feedback that helped them improve their practice. The input from teachers guided CPS in working to re-design a system that accurately addressed the needs of teachers.
Over the past several years, CPS has made significant efforts to improve individual components of the evaluation system through various pilots. One pilot was particularly successful: the Excellence in Teaching Project, which built on the Danielson Framework for Teaching and was implemented in over 100 schools. A study conducted by the Chicago Consortium on School Research found that classroom observation ratings based on the Danielson Framework were a reliable measure of teaching practice, and that students showed the greatest growth in test scores in the classrooms where teachers received the highest ratings on the Danielson Framework. Experiences of both teachers and principals from pilots such as the Excellence in Teaching Projects helped inform the development of REACH.
To create this enhanced system, the CTU and CPS established two committees that have been in negotiations since November 2011. Between November 2011 and April 2012, the two committees held over 35 meetings and met for a total of over 90 hours to discuss all elements of the new system. The committees included teachers, former principals, deputy network chiefs, teacher human resource professionals, technical and legal advisors, CTU officials, including the Union President, and the Board’s Chief Education Officer, Dr. Noemi Donoso, and Chief Talent Officer, Alicia Winckler. These committees also sought and relied upon input from experts in the field of teacher evaluation to inform the plan’s development and implementation.
REACH is the result of the committees’ collective work and establishes an enhanced teacher evaluation system that includes three components; teacher practice, student learning and student feedback. Research from educational experts and districts across the country have shown that using a combination of teacher practice and student learning data provides a more accurate picture of teachers’ performance than using either measure on its own. And recently, the Gates Foundation MET study found that adding student surveys as a third measure to that combination produced even more accurate results. The teacher evaluation system will start by weighting teacher practice more heavily and slowly increase the weight for both student growth and student feedback over time.
“For the first time, we’re clearly outlining expectations for every teacher across the district and creating a roadmap for good teaching to give them the tools to drive student achievement,” said CEO Brizard. “REACH is a win for the district, a win for teachers and a win for students.”
Chicago Public Schools serves 405,000 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.
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