CPS forces unions closer to strike by forcing PERA changes on all teachers now

Not one official from Chicago Public Schools could explain in a rational and sane way (preferably under oath and subject to cross examination) how a "performance evaluation" of Chicago teachers will work in any way in the coming school year. Nevertheless, Chicago Public Schools officials have made their "last best offer" on performance evaluation and announced that they will institute it for all teachers in all schools next year.

The CTU response was quick. In a statement distributed by the union, Carol Caref, the union's research director, provided union members and the public with the following:

After four months and countless hours of bargaining, CPS has given us their “last best offer”. The Performance Evaluation Review Act (PERA), passed in January, 2010 (before the current leadership was in office) gives CPS the right to make the final decision about the new teacher evaluation system mandated by PERA. You will have an opportunity to learn about the details of the new system through the FAQs which will be posted to the CTU website soon, through a tele-town hall on April 23, and through other CTU communications. This initial email is not meant to be comprehensive, but to highlight some of the issues surrounding the new plan.

There are features of the new CPS system that represent an improvement over the current one, but because of several points of disagreement, we are not endorsing the new system. Due to the participation of CTU members who are working teachers, and the information, logical arguments, and pressure CTU brought to the negotiations, we were able to get CPS to back down on several points. We feel that our participation in the negotiations helped create a plan that is better for teachers than what CPS initially proposed.

The new system is an improvement over the checklist system currently in place, which allows principals to give teachers whatever summative ratings they want because there is nothing that links the checkmarks to particular ratings. Additionally, the checklist does not give teachers information about their pedagogical strengths and weaknesses and principals are not required to have substantial pre- and post-conferences with each observation. The new classroom observations will consist of a collection of evidence about your practice, using the Charlotte Danielson Framework ( Teachers will all receive a copy of the Framework in advance and know what evaluators will be looking for when they observe the classroom. Every formal observation will include a pre-and post-conference. Most teachers will have four observations, which will provide increased opportunity to improve their ratings.

Our primary objection to the new evaluation system is timing. There are many new components to teacher evaluation, on top of other new CPS initiatives. We wanted CPS to delay implementation of teacher evaluation at least a year, and pilot the various components to learn how to best implement them and to give teachers an opportunity to become familiar with them in a low-stakes environment. However, the PERA law requires CPS to implement the new evaluation system in at least 300 schools in September, 2012.

Another objection we have to the CPS evaluation system is the use of “value added”. A value added score is given to a teacher based on the difference between student test scores at the beginning and at the end of the school year, relative to scores of other teachers. The value added metric is supposed to account for important student variables (for example, poverty or IEP status) so that the remaining difference in initial and ending student test scores can be attributed to the teacher. Value added is unreliable—a teacher could be scored excellent one year and unsatisfactory the next—and it is a ranking--those with the lowest “value added” score always lose out, no matter how much they’ve helped students. CTU is one of many critics of value added telling CPS not to make it part of teacher evaluation.

One other problem with the system is that CPS would not agree to what we consider to be a reasonable safety net. CTU’s plan was to hire peer observers, who would be teachers on leave, to observe teachers not from their building or even their network. They would serve as a check on principal observation scorings, especially for teachers with low observation scores. We also proposed an appeals process. They did not agree and have proposed instead measures that will only call for a review of scores in the most extreme cases.

CPS has responded to CTU pressure on the following points, but only for next school year:

· CPS initially proposed that student growth count for 45% of a teacher’s evaluation. They now plan to use 25% in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

· Initially, CPS wanted to use student surveys as part of teacher evaluation. Now they will pilot surveys in 2012-13, and not count them toward teacher evaluation next year.

· CPS wanted to use Explore, Plan, and ACT to measure high school student growth. Now they will pilot using these tests for evaluation in 2012-13, and not count them toward teacher evaluation next year.

· CPS initially wanted to evaluate every teacher every year. They will still do that, but in 2012-13, they will not evaluate tenured teachers who this year have superior or excellent ratings.

· CPS wanted to make student growth part of the evaluation of non-classroom teachers. They will still do that, but will look for appropriate measures to use starting in 2013-2014.

We have made some headway in pushing CPS to see that accountability should not just be for teachers and principals, but also for central office, network administrators, and the Board of Education. They have agreed to continue to meet with us to determine what the details of that accountability.

You will be hearing much more about the new evaluation system in the weeks to come. CTU wants to do everything we can to help smooth the transition to the new system, even as we continue to push for evaluation practices that will better serve our members and our students.

In solidarity,

Carol Caref

Quest Center Coordinator


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