Delaware’s Teacher Appraisal System: What Do We Know after Year One?

November 15th, 2013

Category: Policy and Practice

Last week, the Delaware Department of Education released a report on the results of the 2012-13 DPAS II implementation. A lot was written in the report and in The News Journal (article and editorial) about how the numbers played out in regard to what percentage of teachers were deemed effective or not, but a few important story lines got buried.

The first 30 pages of the report focus on valuable data regarding the distribution of ratings on each component and on summative ratings. Similar to other states in the early phases of implementing new teacher evaluation systems, the report found a lack of differentiation among educators in components 1-4 (primarily based on administrator judgment in observations of classroom practices), while component 5 (the student growth component based on measures of student achievement) showed more varied performance. The focus in the media on the lack of differentiation among teachers raised some important questions, but in case you didn’t make it past the first 30 pages, it’s worth taking another look because there was some essential feedback collected from teachers on the system itself that didn’t get the attention it deserved.

Educators identified some significantly positive experiences with the system, while also identifying some key areas for growth.

Positive results:

  • An overwhelming majority of teachers (over 80%) found that the feedback they received through the DPAS-II process is “useful and applicable” and that their feedback conferences were valuable. A majority (64%) also believe the overall system has “some” or “major” impact on improving their teaching.
  • 64% also believe the student improvement component (Component 5) has “some” or “major” impact on improving their teaching.

Room for improvement:

  • 3 out of 4 teachers think the current system needs improvement, particularly as it relates to the burden of paperwork associated with the system and the lack of flexibility in observations. The majority of teachers (58%), administrators (71%), and specialists (64%) do not believe that the time to complete the paperwork required by the system is reasonable.
  • Teachers also identified a need for more peer observations. 78% of educators feel that peer observations are either “valuable” or would provide “some value.”

Overall, the majority of educators gave the DPAS system a grade of “C.” Given this report focused on the very first year of a brand-new, complex system, a “C” provides optimism that Delaware is on the right track, though the system is by no means perfect. Our takeaways from this report are that the process has some serious logistical challenges, but that a) there seems to be some real potential to help teachers and principals do their jobs better; and b) there may be some real opportunities to improve the system by incorporating new components like peer feedback. However, for this system to improve and be more effective, the continued feedback by educators is going to be critical in refining it and continuing the hard work of implementation.

Related Topics:

Mamie Doyle Mannella



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