Wisconsin Experiments with New Teacher Evaluations

Published October 2, 2013

Like many states, Wisconsin is experimenting with ways to evaluate teachers in fulfilling federal requirements. Dozens of Wisconsin school districts are testing The Framework for Teaching, created by Charlotte Danielson.

“Wisconsin, along with the other states, is in a catch-22,” said John Bales, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators. “The federal government can’t require states to force schools to use Common Core or comply with teacher evaluation changes, but a substantial amount of money is tied to compliance.”

Forty-two states have agreed to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores to get out of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Danielson has principals evaluate instructors on lesson plans, state testing results, and classroom observations. These evaluations affect contract renewal and possibly pay.

Mandates Cost Time, Money
A principal must do six to eight hours of observation per teacher for these evaluations. The teacher must also prepare beforhand and attend post-evaluation meetings. An administrator with 20 teachers would, then, average 140 hours per year on evaluations.

“Hiring another administrator to help with all the federal requirements, when these schools need more teachers for oversized classes … will just close small schools. They just can’t do it,” Bales said.

Another element of federal compliance is testing, which amounts to approximately 10 hours per student for each grading period and at district expense. By 2014, Wisconsin will use the new Smarter Balanced national Common Core test for students and teachers.

“I don’t believe we will be ready by that date,” Bales said. “We just don’t know if these tests are going to tell us anything useable about a student. We still don’t have the feedback from last year’s trial tests back yet.”

Useless Observations?
The Danielson website says its framework is backed by a three-year study of more than 3,000 teachers called the Measures of Effective Teaching project. But the study actually shows “classroom observations make virtually no independent contribution to predicting test score gains,” observed Jay Greene, a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas.

I the Framework for Teaching, 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation depends on classroom observation, and the other half is based on student test scores. Administrators who evaluate teachers who instruct subjects and grades that are not tested must instead inspect lesson plans for the other 50 percent of the evaluation.

Image by F. Delventhal.