TEACHER PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHER EVALUATION USING THE TEACHER PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT SYSTEM AND FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO TEACHER QUALITY, PROFESSIONAL GROWTH, AND INSTRUCTIONAL IMPROVEMENT OVER TIME
Richardson, Patricia M
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The primary purpose of teacher evaluation is to improve teaching practice, which results in increased student achievement. In practice, however, evaluation systems have been generally used as sorting mechanisms for identifying the lowest performing teachers for selective termination. The school system in this study, like others, aspires to have all of its teachers consistently performing at a highly effective level. The problem of practice faced by the school system is the inability of a large number of teachers rated “effective” to summarily improve their practice over time and move to the “highly effective” rating. In essence, how does a teacher evaluation metric maximize the chances that those who remain in the profession become accomplished practitioners? This research triangulates teacher evaluation, self-reflection and their roles in improving teacher quality. The prevailing thought is that teachers who willingly engage in more formalized self-reflection and self-assessment yield higher degrees of teacher effectiveness as measured on a local teacher evaluation. The central focus of this study will investigate tenured teachers’ perceptions of the effect of their teacher evaluation tool on teacher quality and other factors that contribute to a teacher’s improvement of instructional performance over time. The researcher would also like to investigate the extent to which teacher cohorts – differentiated by demographic data - engage in formalized practices of self-reflection about their own teaching practice. Lastly, the researcher would like to determine whether or not tenured teachers who are evaluated with the local teacher evaluation tool actually improve their teacher effectiveness over time. This study was conducted in a public, K-12 school system with 1420 teachers employed - 39 of which are National Board Certified. This schools system is located in a rural/suburban school system and has utilized its current teacher evaluation system since 2000. The findings of this study indicated that the majority of teachers – disaggregated by demographic teacher cohort - viewed their local teacher evaluation system somewhere along the continuum of neutral to satisfactory as a tool for building a teacher’s effectiveness over time. The overwhelming majority of teachers embraced the post-conference as the most impactful part of the entire evaluation process in building teacher quality; the least impactful was the pre-conference. Additionally, teacher respondents – agnostic of demographic – opined that while the local teacher evaluation system was perceived to be a both quality control and a compliance factor for teachers, less than half of all respondents believe that the system, assists teachers formatively as a tool for professional development. Per the respondents, it should be noted that the teacher evaluation system elicited the strongest reactions – both positive and negative - in teachers having experienced more than 20 formal observations. The research also conveyed that most teachers reported that there was much more embedded self-reflection in the evaluation system than hypothesized; most prominently, teachers cited that audio-taping, reviewing student performance data, completing a self-reflective checklist, and engaging in unstructured self-reflection were a few of the assorted self-reflective activities were facilitated by the evaluation system. Moreover, the data clearly demonstrated that all teachers engage in high degrees of reflection regardless of demographic cohort and a majority of teachers claim to already know how to “self-reflect.” In other words, the highest self-reported degree of reflection were those teachers already rated as “highly effective” in the local evaluation system. A prevalent trend in the data was that degrees of self-reflection matter and build more pronounced levels of teacher effectiveness over time. In essence, the fact that teachers participate in reflection does not seem to impact teacher quality; rather, the degree and amount to which one reflects is actually what matters in building instructional capacity in teachers. Other noticeable trends in the data were as follows: more years of teaching experience was inversely related to the degree to which a teacher self-reflects; over 30% of teachers with more than 20 years of experience reported that that they do no self-reflect at all; the non-NBCT teacher cohort out reflects the NBCT cohort; NBCT teachers had the highest average evaluation rating out of every teacher cohort; and, teaching experience seems to mute any lack of reflection in a teacher’s evaluation rating; The other noticeable trend was that more formal observations for teachers did not translate into higher evaluation ratings over time. Overall, the two most impactful professional development activities cited by teachers were the following: participation in professional learning communities and peer coaching and mentoring, respectively.