REAChing for trust in teacher evaluations

See all posts

As some readers will recall, at roughly this time last year, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) had just settled to terms which ended the CTU strike. While the CTU called the strike for a variety of reasons, one of the sticking points was the inclusion of student data in the new teacher evaluation system, REACH.  

Survey results from the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) indicate this remains a controversial point of REACH -- 57 percent of teachers believe or strongly believe the new evaluation system relies too heavily on standardized tests. But it also shows teachers recognize the value REACH provides to their professional development -- the majority of teachers felt the evaluation process encouraged professional development (76 percent) and thought their evaluator fairly and accurately assessed instruction (see graph below).


Missing from the charts above are some of the narrative responses that revealed the tension stemming from using observations for two, sometimes competing aims -- providing professional development and evaluating performance. It is no surprise that some teachers worry how honest conversations concerning their areas for growth could affect their final evaluation, especially if they're in a low trust environment. One teacher highlights this concern: 

Because there is such an emphasis placed on assessing the quality of teachers, there is no incentive for teachers to admit insecurity or talk about areas in which he or she struggles. I felt like I had to mask the things that I didn't do as well and try to explain why they didn't go well because, at the end of the day, I'm being rated. [...]

Careful examination of how to strike the balance and build trust will become increasingly important as districts adopt more substantive observation tools and evaluation frameworks. However, we congratulate CPS and the CTU for taking the first step -- adapting a system that provides the opportunity for teachers to receive valuable feedback on their work.