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Teacher Evaluation in Practice: Implementing Chicago's REACH Students

September 17, 2013

Historically, teacher evaluation in Chicago has fallen short on two crucial fronts: It has not provided administrators with measures that differentiated among strong and weak teachers -- in fact, 93 percent of teachers were rated as Excellent or Superior -- and it has not provided teachers with useful feedback they could use to improve their instruction. Chicago is not unique -- teacher evaluation systems across the country have experienced the exact same problems.Recent national policy has emphasized overhauling these systems to include multiple measures of teacher performance, such as student outcomes, and structuring the evaluations so they are useful from both talent management and teacher professional development perspectives. Principals and teachers need an evaluation system that provides teachers with specific, practice-oriented feedback they can use to improve their instruction and school leaders need to be able to identify strong and weak teachers. Required to act by a new state law and building off lessons learned from an earlier pilot of an evidence-based observation tool, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) rolled out its new teacher evaluation system -- Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago's Students (REACH Students) -- in the 2012-13 school year. The REACH system seeks to provide a measure of individual teacher effectiveness that can simultaneously support instructional improvement. It incorporates teacher performance ratings based on multiple classroom observations together with student growth measured on two different types of assessments. While the practice of using classroom observations as an evaluation tool is not completely new, REACH requires teachers and administrators to conceptualize classroom observations more broadly as being part of instructional improvement efforts as well as evaluation; evaluating teachers based on student test score growth has never happened before in the district. REACH implementation was a massive undertaking. It required a large-scale investment of time and energy from teachers, administrators, CPS central office staff, and the teachers union. District context played an important role and provided additional challenges as the district was introducing other major initiatives at the same time as REACH. Furthermore, the school year began with the first teacher strike in CPS in over 25 years. Teacher evaluation was one of several contentious points in the protracted negotiation, and the specific issue of using student growth on assessments to evaluate teachers received considerable coverage in the media. This report focuses on the perceptions and experiences of teachers and administrators during the first year of REACH implementation, which was in many ways a particularly demanding year. These experiences can be helpful to CPS and to other districts across the country as they work to restructure and transform teacher evaluation.

Rethinking Teacher Evaluation in Chicago

November 15, 2011

Presents findings from the Excellence in Teaching Pilot, which included training and support, classroom observations, and feedback in principal-teacher conferences. Examines implementation issues and the validity and reliability of observation ratings.

Reading on Grade Level in Third Grade: How Is It Related to High School Performance and College Enrollment?

October 1, 2010

Illustrates how third-grade reading level correlates with eighth-grade reading level, which, along with ninth-grade school traits, correlates with ninth-grade performance, which in turn correlates with high school graduation and college attendance rates.

Keeping New Teachers: A First Look at the Influences of Induction in the Chicago Public Schools

January 1, 2007

Examines whether participation in a formal induction program can improve teachers' experiences and job satisfaction, and demonstrates that strong levels of mentoring and support for new teachers greatly improve their desire to continue teaching.

From High School to the Future

April 1, 2006

For Chicago Public School (CPS) graduates, grades are a more important predictor of college enrollment and graduation than college entrance test scores, according to a study from the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. This study also found substantial differences across colleges in graduation rates among highly qualified CPS graduates, suggesting that the colleges students attend matters a great deal. The study paints a discouraging picture of college success for CPS graduates. Despite the fact that nearly 80% of seniors state they expect to graduate from a four-year college, only about one-third enroll in a 4-year college within a year of high school graduation, and only 35% of those who enroll received a bachelor's degree within 6 years. The study found that boys are less likely to enter and graduate from college than girls with similar abilities. Also, CPS Latino graduates attend college below both national and Illinois averages for Latino high school graduates.

Professional Communities and Instruction Improvement Practices: A study of small high schools in Chicago

January 1, 2006

This qualitative study, which includes interviews with principals and teachers and observations of professional development activities, teacher team meetings, and technical support consultations, concludes that the work of teacher professional communities can be divided into two categories. The supportive practices of teacher teams are related to achieving the daily tasks required of individual teachers, such as addressing students' behavioral and learning problems. Developmental practices are related to improving instruction and curriculum schoolwide, and include planning, implementing, and monitoring interventions geared toward improving student performance.

Understanding the Prairie State Achievement Exam: A descriptive report with analysis of student performance

September 1, 2005

This report, which will serve as a foundation for the Consortium's future studies of the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), presents key issues related to the exam. The report's author discusses basic facts about the PSAE, such as its origination, its component tests, the subject areas it covers, how it is scored, and how scores are reported. The author then describes how PSAE scores are used in accountability policies. The report contains analysis of student performance on various parts of the exam and relationships between component tests. Performance comparisons across various groups of students are also presented.

The On-Track Indicator as a Predictor of High School Graduation

June 1, 2005

This indicator identifies students as on-track if they earn at least five full-year course credits and no more than one semester F in their first year of high school. On-track students are more than three and one-half times more likely to graduate from high school in four years than off-track students. The indicator is a more accurate predictor of graduation than students' previous achievement test scores or their background characteristics. Perhaps the most important finding from this report is that failures during the first year of high school make a student much less likely to graduate. Based on their findings, the authors believe that parents and teachers should carefully monitor students' grades, especially in the first semester of freshman year, when there are still many opportunities to improve grades. Helping students make a successful transition to high school during the first semester could make students more likely to graduate. This report also finds that on-track students are not necessarily the students with the highest achievement test scores. Many students with strong achievement fail to graduate, and many students who have demonstrated weaker achievement succeed in graduating. Finally, this report concludes that the particular school a student attends plays a large role in whether the student is on-track. While we expect schools to have students with differing levels of preparation for high school, differences in the number of students on-track at each school remained even when the authors controlled for students' eighth-grade test scores and socioeconomic status. This suggests that school climate and structure play a significant role in whether students succeed in high school. Schools can use the on-track indicator, which makes use of readily available data on course credits and failures, to understand what aspects of the school may be leading students to drop out.

Graduation and Dropout Trends in Chicago: A look at cohorts of students from 1991 through 2004 (highlights)

January 1, 2005

The Illinois State Board of Education sets the official method for calculating graduation and dropout rates in the state. According to that method, the graduation rate for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is 69.8 percent. The Consortium calculates that only 54 percent of CPS students graduate. What accounts for this disparity? The answer is that calculating graduation and dropout rates is far more complex than simply dividing the number of graduates by the number of students enrolled in a school. Decisions about how to construct the formulas used to calculate these rates affect the resulting numbers. Decisions about how to define terms like "graduate," "drop out," and "transfer" also affect the graduation and dropout statistics. This report was created using the individual records of all CPS students, which produces the system's actual graduation and dropout rates rather than estimates. This report also breaks down graduation and dropout rates by race/ethnicity, gender, community area, and school. Extensive tables and graphs present this information from a variety of perspectives, in order to provide the most nuanced, accurate, and detailed picture of CPS student outcomes that is currently available.

Notes from the Ground: Teachers, principals, and students' perspectives on the Chicago High School Redesign Initiative, year two

September 1, 2004

This report follows up the Consortium's 2003 data brief, Chicago High School Redesign Initiative: A snapshot of the first year of implementation. Both reports examine the implementation experiences of small high schools, and will serve as springboards for a systematic, three-year qualitative study beginning in fall 2004. In this interview-based report, the responses of students, teachers and principals from 11 CHSRI-supported small schools are compiled to examine questions within four broad topics: how Chicago Public Schools policies relate to small schools; characteristics of the small schools; integration of support, standards, thematic focus, student interest and community involvement; and student experience and instructional reform. Notes from the Ground also includes issues for discussion and action among stakeholders, as Chicago continues to open small schools under the proposed Renaissance 2010 plan.

Ending Social Promotion: The Effects of Retention

March 1, 2004

This report and the companion report, Ending Social Promotion: Dropout rates in Chicago after implementation of the eighth-grade promotion gate, are the final two reports in the six-year ending social promotion series. This report describes the experiences of third- and sixth-grade students who did not meet Chicago Public Schools' promotional test-score cutoffs and were retained in grade. Researchers examine how the practices resulting from the policy affected the retention experience and evaluate the impact of retention on students' achievement growth and experiences in school.

Teacher and Principal Responses to the Grow Network: A Preliminary Evaluation of Use in Chicago Public elementary schools

January 1, 2004

During the 2001-02 school year, Chicago Public Schools officials contracted with the Grow Network to provide supplemental reporting of student test results to parents, teachers, and school administrators. The Grow Network provides a variety of resources, including individualized, printed score reports for parents; classroom-level reports for teachers; and school building reports for principals. CPS engaged the Grow Network as part of its efforts to improve data access and develop greater capacity for "data-driven decision making" in schools.