Secretary Duncan made a significant announcement yesterday regarding a delay in new teacher and administrator evaluation procedures during a visit to Jefferson Middle School in Washington, DC.
Duncan’s announcement responds to a significant amount of criticism regarding the timing of implementation of new requirements for using indicator(s) of student progress and proficiency as a component of teacher and administrator evaluations. States that had applied for waivers of certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act were required as part of their waiver request to implement an evaluation system that included evidence of student proficiency by the 2014-15 school year or have their waiver revoked. This is exactly what happened in the state of Washington earlier this year.
In Oregon, the new evaluation system, the Oregon Matrix Model, has been in a development, field testing and professional development cycle for the past two years, and was scheduled to be implemented statewide this year. No official statement from ODE has come out so far on this change of position by USDOE. While a lot of training opportunities have been provided by the Oregon Department of Education and school districts have been working with their employees on these new models; there have also been concerns expressed that the system was still very new, and additional time for training and refinement of data measures would be beneficial. Secretary Duncan’s statement appears to open a door for states like Oregon that have waivers in place to seek that extra time.
The Oregon Matrix model has the benefit of not focusing exclusively on state-level standardized tests, although such data is expected to be one of the multiple measures identified for teachers of those subject areas in local districts’ plans. Unlike value added models that seek to control for the effects of school and student variables and then examine the amount of remaining variance explained by the individual teacher, the Oregon Matrix Model looks at the context of the environment in which the teacher is located and focuses on student improvement within that context.
A focus on growth and improvement within the context of the school is the goal. However, the mechanism for identifying all appropriate data indicators, collection procedures, incorporation into classroom observation and administrator evaluation cycles, and experience with how the new criteria work will all require time and experience before people feel confident in a new system. The extra time being offered by Secretary Duncan is a step in that direction.