Memphis Leads the Way in Teacher-Driven Reform
“Teach Plus has been quite instrumental in helping the district in terms of evaluation. Teachers, observers, and the [Memphis Education Association] really liked the real-time feedback because no one could say the information was biased or tainted in any way. Teach Plus has proven to be an asset to this work.”
– Tequilla Banks, Executive Director, Teacher Effectiveness Initiative, Memphis City Schools
A cornerstone of our work is ensuring that teachers have a voice in the decisions that affect their classrooms. When policymakers consult those on education’s frontlines, decisions will be better, implementation will run more smoothly, and students will benefit.
Even before Race to the Top, Memphis City Schools began work on a new initiative to improve the quality of teaching. Many districts produce plans behind closed doors and infuriate teachers who feel that reforms are being done “to” instead of “with” them. In contrast, Memphis turned to Teach Plus to help them engage teachers throughout the process.
Teach Plus helped the district give teachers a role in key decisions about how evaluations would be conducted. For example:
- Determining which rubric to use. This year, 500 classrooms across the district piloted three different teacher observation rubrics. Teach Plus conducted three focus groups to gather feedback from teachers and evaluators about the value of each. By a clear majority, teachers identified DC IMPACT, developed for Washington, D.C. schools, as their preferred observation rubric and district leaders agreed to move forward with that choice.
- Determining the weighting of evaluation components. Teachers were able to decide how much importance would be given to classroom observations, student feedback and teacher knowledge in the evaluation process. The result is a better plan – one that reflects teachers’ real work and ensures significant impact on students’ success.
Even before decisions were made, Teach Plus gave teachers a forum for sharing their views on evaluations. At this event, using Teach Plus’ live polling technology, teachers expressed dissatisfaction with the old system, and openness to a new one. Specifically, 71 percent of teachers at the event said the current evaluation system does not support and improve their teaching practice. And 96 percent of the teachers agreed that clear, measurable standards of effectiveness are critical for teaching to be recognized as a true profession.
Working with teachers throughout the process, Memphis designed a Teacher Effectiveness Measurement that was unanimously approved by the Tennessee Board of Education. In fact, the Board said that it could be used by districts across the state. Thanks to this work, MCS will now move from a teacher evaluation system that only offers up-or-down ratings of “satisfactory” and “unsatisfactory” to a multi-dimensional teacher evaluation system with five ratings that range from “significantly above expectations” to “significantly below expectations.” And any district in Tennessee – from the Mississippi River to the Appalachian Mountains – could follow suit.
Says 7th grade Language Arts teacher Everlina Hull, “The opportunity for input from those who serve on the frontline of student growth and achievement suggests that the district appreciates and respects the positive contributions teachers can make in education reform. I am sure this evidence of trust will result in teachers being more open to accept and embrace this document that addresses teacher performance, evaluation, and tenure.”
Teach Plus Expands to Washington, D.C.
Teach Plus is proud to announce that it will be launching in Washington, D.C. in fall, 2011. Programs will include the Teaching Policy Fellowship and the T+ Network. Teach Plus looks forward to providing leadership opportunities for outstanding teachers and engaging teacher voices in the nation’s Capitol. To apply or spread the word about the role of Teach Plus Washington, D.C. Executive Director, learn more here.
Top stories in education policy this week:
Student-Teaching Found to Suffer From Poor Supervision: The NCTQ concludes that most education schools provide insufficient supervision and don't carefully select effective mentor-teachers.
Why The Atlanta And D.C. Cheating Scandals Show We Finally Care Enough About Student Achievement: Kevin Carey compares coverage of corruption/cheating scandals in politics, finance, policing, and more, and argues: "Blaming cheating on the test amounts to infantilizing teachers, moving teaching 180 degrees away from the kind of professionalization that teacher advocates often profess to support."
D.C. teacher performance evaluations are working: The Washington Post describes the results of Washington, D.C.'s IMPACT teacher evaluation system.
Teachers Move, Students Stay at L.A. Charter Schools: The University of California, Berkeley has released simultaneous reports on student and teacher transience in Los Angeles charter schools.
Can school reformer Joel Klein reform News Corp?: After joining Rupert Murdoch's empire to lead its educational technology division, Klein is now helping to lead the media group through a phone-hacking scandal that is rocking Great Britian.