Revolution Lullabye

August 27, 2014

Darling-Hammond, Creating a Comprehensive System for Evaluating and Supporting Effective Teaching

Darling-Hammond, Linda. Creating a Comprehensive System for Evaluating and Supporting Effective Teaching. Stanford, CA: Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. 2012. Print.

This report argues for the development of an aligned, comprehensive K-12 teacher evaluation system that supports students, teachers, curriculum, schools, and communities by being an integral part of a larger teaching and learning system. The report outlines seven “best practices” for creating teacher evaluation systems. Teacher evaluation systems, the report argued, should serve teachers at all stages of their careers and be used for critical decisions at the licensing, hiring, and granting tenure/merit stages. Teacher evaluation systems need to be directly connected to ongoing teacher professional development and encourage collaboration among teachers, not competition. The report makes a distinction between “teacher quality” and “teaching quality,” arguing that helping teachers improve their teaching practices across different kinds of students, contexts, and curriculum will result in better teaching and better student learning. The report includes examples of district and state evaluation systems and procedures that it believes serves as models and starting points for creating a comprehensive teacher evaluation system.


Quotable Quotes

“Today, much attention is focused on identifying and removing poor teachers. But what we really need is a conception of teacher evaluation as part of a teaching and learning system that supports continuous improvement, both for individual teachers and for the profession as a whole. Such a system should enhance teacher learning and skill, while at the same time ensuring that teachers who are retained and tenured can effectively support student learning throughout their careers” (1-2)

The problem: “Virtually everyone agrees that teacher evaluation in the United States needs an overhaul. Existing systems rarely help teachers improve or clearly distinguish those who are succeeding from those who are struggling. The tools that are used do not always represent the important features of good teaching. Criteria and methods for evaluating teachers vary substantially across districts and at key career milestones—when teachers complete pre-service teacher education, become initially licensed, are considered for tenure, and receive a professional license.

A comprehensive system should address these purposes in a coherent way and provide support for supervision and professional learning, identify teachers who need additional assistance and—in some cases—a change of career, and recognize expert teachers who can contribute to the learning of their peers.” (i)

Distinction between teacher quality and teaching quality: “Teacher quality might be thought of as the bundle of personal traits, skills, and understandings an individual brings to teaching, including dispositions to behave in certain ways. Teaching quality refers to strong instruction that enables a wide range of students to learn. Teaching quality is in part a function of teacher quality— teachers’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions—but it is also strongly influenced by the context of instruction: the curriculum and assessment system; the “fit” between teachers’ qualifications and what they are asked to teach; and teaching conditions, such as time, class size, facilities, and materials. If teaching is to be effective, policymakers must address the teaching and learning environment as well as the capacity of individual teachers” (i).

Five elements to this teacher evaluation system, as part of a larger teaching and learning system:

  1. “Common statewide standards for teaching that are related to meaningful student learning and are shared across the profession.” These should help direct the preparation of teachers and ongoing professional development (i)
  2. “Performance assessments, based on statewide standards, guiding state function such as teacher preparation, licensure, and advanced certification” – there should be multiple assessments for different points in the profession (initial, mid, advanced) that look at how well teachers can “plan, teach, and assess learning” (ii)
  3. “Local evaluation systems aligned to the same standards, which asses on-the-job teaching based on multiple measures of teaching practice and student learning.” – things like observations, teaching artifacts like lessons plans/assignments, “evidence” of how teachers contribute to their colleagues’ work and student learning (ii) (example on page 11)
  4. “Support structures to ensure trained evaluators, mentoring for teachers who need additional assistance, and fair decisions about personnel actions” – including access to master teacher mentors, fair “governance structures,” and continued resources to maintain the system (ii)
  5. “Aligned professional learning opportunities that support the improvement of teachers and teaching quality” – all kinds of professional development (formal, embedded) that “trigger continuous goal-setting” and “opportunities to share expertise” (ii)

 “To transform systems, incentives should be structured to promote collaboration and knowledge sharing, rather than competition, across organizations” (ii)

“Criteria for an Effective Teacher Evaluation System

“In conclusion, research on successful approaches to teacher evaluation suggests that:

  1. “Teacher evaluation should be based on professional teaching standards and should be sophisticated enough to assess teaching quality across the continuum of development from novice to expert teacher.
  2. “Evaluations should include multi-faceted evidence of teacher practice, student learning, and professional contributions that are considered in an integrated fashion, in relation to one another and to the teaching context. Any assessments used to make judgments about students’ progress should be appropriate for the specific curriculum and students the teacher teaches.
  3. “Evaluators should be knowledgeable about instruction and well trained in the evaluation system, including the process of how to give productive feedback and how to support ongoing learning for teachers. As often as possible, and always at critical decision-making junctures (e.g., tenure or renew- al), the evaluation team should include experts in the specific teaching field.
  4. “Evaluation should be accompanied by useful feedback, and connected to professional development opportunities that are relevant to teachers’ goals and needs, including both formal learning opportunities and peer collaboration, observation, and coaching.
  5. “The evaluation system should value and encourage teacher collaboration, both in the standards and criteria that are used to assess teachers’ work, and in the way results are used to shape professional learning opportunities.
  6. “Expert teachers should be part of the assistance and review process for new teachers and for teachers needing extra assistance. They can provide the additional subject-specific expertise and person-power needed to ensure that intensive and effective assistance is offered and that decisions about tenure and continuation are well grounded.
  7. “Panels of teachers and administrators should oversee the evaluation process to ensure that it is thorough and of high quality, as well as fair and reliable. Such panels have been shown to facilitate more timely and well- grounded personnel decisions that avoid grievances and litigation. Teachers and school leaders should be involved in developing, implementing, and monitoring the system to ensure that it reflects good teaching well, that it operates effectively, that it is tied to useful learning opportunities for teachers, and that it produces valid results.

“Initiatives to measure and improve teaching effectiveness will have the greatest payoff if they stimulate practices known to support student learning and are embedded in systems that also develop greater teaching competence. In this way, policies that create increasingly valid measures of teaching effectiveness—and that create innovative systems for recognizing, developing and utilizing expert teachers—can ultimately help to create a more effective teaching profession” (iii-iv).


“Good systems must be designed so that teachers are not penalized for teaching the students who have the greatest educational needs. Rather, they should explicitly seek to provide incentives that recognize and reward teachers who work with challenging students” (24)

Notable Notes 

Need to create a system for evaluating teachers (and developing teaching) that takes into account all the stakeholders at local/state/national levels as well as the curriculum and standards.

The problem with relying on student performance scores to evaluate teaching: a teachers’ scores vary considerably from class-to-class and year-to-year, are affected by and tied directly to the type of students in the classroom (student differences), and the scores themselves are flattened – it’s impossible to discern what exactly impacted student learning: the teacher, the curriculum, the school environment, the home environment? (iii)

Student learning scores can be used in determining teacher effectiveness, but they can’t be the sole indicator and if used, they must be “appropriate for the curriculum and the students being taught” (iii)

Good graphic for representing the three tiers of a teacher career (and the argument to assess and evaluate teachers along these three tiers): initial, professional licensure, experienced/master teacher (7) and an example of New Mexico’s standards-based teacher evaluation system that evaluates teachers at these three tiers (8-9)

discussion of peer-based review of teachers, examples of systems using peer review (28-35)


January 16, 2013

Selfe and Hawisher, Methodologies of Peer and Editorial Review: Changing Practices

Selfe, Cynthia L. and Gail E. Hawisher. “Methodologies of Peer and Editorial Review: Changing Practices.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 672-698.

Selfe and Hawisher, in this section of a two-part symposium in CCC on peer review, describe the history and the changing nature of prepublication and postpublication peer review.  They explain the strengths and drawbacks of traditional double-blind or doubly anonymous peer review (in which both the author and reviewers remain anonymous to one another), and then describe how the advent of digital publishing and using electronic platforms for peer review has changed the process to be one that is more open and collaborative.  They draw on the “gift economy” argument by Kathering Fitzpatrick (Planned Obsolescence) to illustrate changing perceptions and expectations for academic publishing, such as a reconceptualization of copyright, access, and the ultimate purposes and aims of academic scholarship. In their study of peer and editorial review, they interviewed the editors of three digital presses and four online journals in composition and rhetoric in order to discover how the digital environment has changed peer review and publication. They find that online publications, especially ones that utilize coding, video, and audio features, allow for and perhaps even require a more collaborative and transparent relationship among the authors, editors, and reviewers than traditional anonymous peer review.

Notable Notes

challenge of digital publication: maintain integrity, professionalism

hierarchy of prestige of journals is maintained by senior scholars passing on preferences/expectations to junior scholars

citation indices only contain a small percentage of the field’s journals (684)

peer review relies on volunteer efforts to edit, review articles – time-consuming process that is not often recognized as part of scholarly work

Quotable Quotes

“A combination, then, of understanding review as a collaborative process supported by dramatic changes in digital communication has influenced many editors in the field to make reviews more open” (687).

“As should be quite obvious, this exploration of changing peer review practices and their consequences is just a beginning and has been helped immeasurably not only by colleagues who edit established journals but also by those who pioneer the creation of new venues through which the field may share its research and those who participate willingly within such experimental systems. We are convinced that only through such exploration and experimentation will we, as a large and complex profession, develop better, more productive, and more humane ways of dealing with the peer review of scholarship” (693).

January 11, 2013

Weiser, Peer Review in the Tenure and Promotion Process

Weiser, Irwin. “Peer Review in the Tenure and Promotion Process.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 645-672.

Weiser’s essay, included in this issue’s Symposium on Peer Review, describes the role of peer review in the tenure and promotion process. Weiser’s explanations, taken from his experiences as a faculty member, WPA, department chair, and dean at two different universities (Purdue University and York College of Pennsylvania), show the variance of the tenure and promotion process at American colleges and universities. Wesier argues that this variance is not a drawback: institutions have different missions, and their expectations for tenure (scholarship, teaching, and service/engagement) need to reflect those particular university and department-level missions.

Weiser organizes his essay through a series of questions: Who is reviewed? Who reviews? What is reviewed (and by whom)? What are the criteria for review? Are reviews (always) confidential?  He spends considerable time in the essay describing the purpose and function of external letters of evaluation, a requirement for tenure that is not universal yet increasing (almost all research, PhD-granting universities require external letters.) He distinguishes between external letters of support and external letters of evaluation, and argues that these external letters should only guide the internal committees who are ultimately charged with the decisions of tenure and promotion.

At the end of his article, Weiser offers a series of questions that can be used as a heuristic for developing clear, objective, and fair tenure and promotion processes.  The questions are addressed to the multiple stakeholders in the process: candidates up for tenure; members of a tenure and promotion committee; external reviewers.

Weiser also argues that the processes for tenure and promotion need to be revisable so that they continue to reflect current expectations, values, and realities.  He specifically cites the shrinking opportunties to publish scholarly monographs, the advent of digital journals and digital publication venues, and the emergence of scholarship of teaching and engagement as contemporary realities that need to be addressed in the construction of tenure and promotion guidelines.

Notable Notes

history of peer review in tenure and promotion tied to AAUP tenure guidelines (1940) and the history of peer review in publication.

“peer” can mean multiple things (654)

the local levels of review are the most important – future committees and levels base their recommendations off of them (653).

Quotable Quotes

“Peer review, both internal and external, serves two important purposes in the academy. First, it provides the opportunity for the work of colleagues to be evaluated and acknowledged for its contributions in the classroom, in the profession, and in the wider culture. Second, through the system of checks and balances that assures that work is being evaluated by numerous people, many of who base their evaluations only on the accomplishments of a candidate and not on their personal knowledge of her or him, peer review provides a level of protection for candidates from personal or intellectual biases. Peer review supports the foundation of tenure: the preservation of academic freedom and the protection of faculty from unwarranted dismissal” (670).

“And it should be clear that variation in policies and practices is appropriate, because it acknowledges the impracticality and unfairness of a one-size-fits-all set of criteria that are applied regardless of institutional mission. Evaluation for candidates for tenure and promotion must be viewed in context of mission, with recognition that different emphases on research, teaching, and service are appropriate” (665).

“There appears to be an increasingly common agreement that faculty are members of multiple communities – communities of engaged teachers whose work can be – perhaps best can be – evaluated locally, but also of communities of scholars whose discursive work is best evaluated by other members of those communities, people who present at the same conferences, publish in the same journals (or edit them), and are members of the same professional organizations” (655).

January 10, 2013

Kerschbaum, Avoiding the Difference Fixation

Kerschbaum, Stephaine L. “Avoiding the Difference Fixation: Identity Categories, Markers of Difference, and the Teaching of Writing.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 616-644.

Kerschebaum, challenging the idea of difference as categorical and static, offers up a definition of difference as dynamic, emergent, and relational.  Difference, she argues, is rhetorical and therefore cannot be fixed.  In order to find and identify difference, teachers need to be attune to “markers of difference,” which emerge in communicative acts.  Kerschebaum uses a short transcript of two students discussing an essay draft in a peer review to demonstrate how these markers of difference affect relationships and identities.  She calls on teachers of writing to be more attentive to the markers of difference that emerge in the classroom and to use these markers to talk about and address difference in a way that resists categories and stable identities.

Notable Notes

fixing difference v. marking difference (619)

uses Bakhtin to describe how difference is emergent, dynamic, and relational (624-627)

human beings rely on categorical identification to make meaning, but those categories are not always or ever accurate (622)

uses her own experiences as a deaf woman to explain how difference emerges through relationships

reviews scholarship in writing studies on recognizing and understanding the nature of difference

suggests that attention to markers of difference in classroom interactions can help cultivate three habits of mind from the Framework openness, flexibility, metacognition

Quotable Quotes

“A marker-based orientation to difference is crucial for contemporary writing research because when we write and read, we wrestle with not just texts, but with selves” (623).

“The remainder of this article, then, suggests a new approach to difference in which teachers and researchers can practice a kind of attention to difference that cultivates awarenesss of new details, provides opportunity to interpret and re-interpret thsoe details, and contextualizes them within specific moments of writing, teaching, and learning” (622).

“Difference is not ‘out there’ waiting to be found and identified but is always coming-to-be through the here-and-now of interaction” (626).

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