The word is out that TPS and Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association have agreed to use student surveys to help gauge teacher performance. That's right... in grades K-12, we are asking students to share their thoughts about the classroom experience. The initial reaction:
"You're WHAT? How can you rely on students to provide feedback to teachers?"
The fact is, teachers are professionals with a calling to help students succeed through school and beyond. They work tirelessly to grow as professionals and value high-quality feedback. Principal observation and coaching are still the foundation of teacher feedback--especially in Tulsa. As described in the recent Measures of Effective Teaching Project, however, it is extremely difficult to reliably gauge individual teachers' work using classroom observation alone. It may surprise you, but the MOST reliable method of describing teachers' practices is gained by asking those who see them every day.
Surveys of K-12 students have been used effectively for years as tools for professional growth, and more recently as complements to traditional evaluation systems. Surveys are not just a reliable feedback tool, they are also highly predictive of teachers' impact on student achievement growth. This means that teachers can use feedback from their survey reports to adjust their practices and improve student learning. As a result, many TPS teachers have been using student surveys as early as 2013 as a tool for teacher reflection and professional growth.
In addition to being a tool for professional growth, they are now also being used by Tulsa as a way to increase the quality of teacher evaluation and comply with SB 2033, a state law passed in 2010 that requires that teacher evaluation include principal's observation data, a qualitative measure, as well as high-quality quantitative measures.
TPS and approximately 500 other school districts are using the Tulsa Model for Observation and Evaluation to guide principal's observations of teachers, which the state calls the "qualitative measure." Again, this is the main component of teacher evaluation in TPS. However, this year, after months of collaboration and an agreement with the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA), TPS is now adding quantitative information to its evaluation reports to create a multiple measures system, as no one measure tells the full picture.
The other two components are 1) student surveys information and 2) value-added data. Value Added, in use at TPS since 2009-2010, measures the impact of teachers on individual student's achievement growth from one year to the next. Oftentimes, the impact of a highly-effective teacher can be masked by other factors beyond their control--i.e., poverty, mobility, disabilities, English language learners, etc. Value added evens the playing field and is a more responsible and accurate way of describing teachers' affect on student learning than simple achievement scores.
Student surveys provide further dimension, and as noted above, research shows they are highly reliable and predictive of student growth. Piloted in Spring 2013, teachers' responses were overwhelmingly positive. Ninety percent of teachers responded favorably when asked if they would volunteer again, and almost eighty percent said they would recommend student surveys to other teachers. So, last year, TPS decided to use the survey district-wide and began by rolling the survey out to 50 percent of its schools. This year, all TPS sites are using the student survey.
TCTA has been a partner in the rollout and continuous improvement of the multiple measure system--from vetting the student survey questions to helping design the district's value added system. Their membership ratified the underlying agreement with approximately 98% approval. Together, all three components (principal observation, value-added information, and student surveys information) paint a much more accurate picture of teacher performance and provide useful data to continuously improve classroom instruction.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON STUDENT SURVEYS AND MULTIPLE MEASURES:
Having trouble viewing these documents? Download Adobe Reader.