From the early 1990s through early 2000s, the San José Unified School District sought to raise academic expectations for all of its 32,000 students by focusing on reform efforts at the high school level. These included a partnership with the College Board, an equity initiative, realigned resources to de-track classes, increased minority participation in honors and Advanced Placement courses, and adopting UC and CSU A-G requirements for high school graduation.
Work on these changes sowed the seeds of an increasingly collaborative relationship between the San José Unified School District and the San José Teachers Association. That collaboration led in 2009 to establishing the Evaluation Working Group. Composed of teachers appointed by the union, principals, and district central office administrators, the Working Group reviewed research and examined non-traditional evaluation models around the country to help San José identify alternatives to its traditional teacher evaluation system.
The Teacher Evaluation System (TES)
San Jose’s new system is organized around five professional standards. Teachers: 1) maintain appropriate learning environments, 2) demonstrate knowledge of the subjects they teach, 3) design high-quality learning experiences, 4) constantly assess student progress and adapt instruction to promote student achievement, and, 5) continuously develop and improve as professional educators.
The evaluation system differentiates the appraisal process for probationary teachers, experienced teachers performing satisfactorily, and struggling experienced teachers. At the heart of the new system is the Teacher Quality Panel (TQP), a joint labor-management panel composed of three teachers appointed by the union and three administrators appointed by the district, which is responsible for ensuring evaluation is carried out fairly, consistently, and complies with processes and procedures developed by the district and union.
Probationary teachers are assigned to the TES while they earn permanent status. Administrators and Consulting Teachers (experienced teachers selected by the TQP) receive training and then jointly evaluate beginning teachers for the two years of probation. Consulting Teachers are released full-time from their usual professional responsibilities. Administrators and CTs observe separately and prepare reports of their observations. The TQP reviews all of the documentation in redacted form. If the administrator and CT do not reach the same conclusion about a probationary teacher’s practice, they observe the teacher together.
At the end of the first year, the TQP reviews the evaluation documentation and then makes a recommendation to the superintendent either to continue the teacher for the second year of probation or not renew the teacher’s contract. If teacher is renewed, the evaluation process for the second year mirrors that of the first. At the end of year two, the TQP again reviews all of the accumulated evidence and recommends that the teacher be granted permanent status (tenure) or be non-reelected.
Experienced Teachers Who Are Meeting Standard
Teachers in San José who have earned permanent status enter a three-year evaluation cycle that persists as long as the teacher continues to “meet standard.” The first year of the cycle consists of a formal evaluation by a site administrator that includes observations as well as review of additional kinds of evidence, such as samples of student work or lesson plans, to arrive at a rating of “Meets Standard” or “Does Not Meet Standard.” During the two subsequent years, the teacher develops and implements a professional growth plan.
Evaluating Struggling Experienced Teachers
Permanent teachers who receive a rating of “Does Not Meet Standard,” complete two evaluation cycles with a support plan targeting issues identified in Round 1 and, if the rating remains the same, are referred to the Teacher Assistance Program (TAP) overseen by the TAP Panel, an expanded version of the Teacher Quality Panel that deals specifically with permanent teachers who are at risk. Each teacher in TAP is assigned a mentor to provide support and an administrator and a CT who are responsible for three observations in the first semester and a possible fourth if the teacher is still not meeting standard.
After each observation, the administrator and CT present a progress report to the TAP Panel. At the end of the year, the Panel reviews the accumulated evidence and makes a recommendation to the superintendent that the teacher is: (1) now meeting standard and should be returned to the regular evaluation cycle, (2) not yet meeting standard but has made progress and should be offered an additional semester in TAP, or (3) does not meet standard and should be recommended for dismissal.
San José's new evaluation system represents a sharp turn from the previous system. It emphasizes enhanced support and supervision for probationary and struggling permanent teachers and focuses on continuous professional growth for everyone else.
Julia Koppich is president of Koppich & Associates and Daniel Humphrey is an independent consultant.
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