Proposed Amendments to Part 50 (Evaluation of Certified Employees under Article s24A and 34 of the School Code)

P.A. 96-861 (PERA), enacted in 2010, amended Articles 24A and 34 of the School Code to transform the way in which the performance of teachers and principals in Illinois public schools is evaluated.  Central to this transformation is the inclusion of data and indicators of student growth (in addition to consideration of professional practice) as a “significant” factor in determining a teacher’s or principal’s performance evaluation rating.  The law also mandates that nontenured teachers and assistant principals be included in this revised system of evaluation and be held to similar standards of evaluation as tenured teachers and principals, respectively. 

To date, several categories of school districts have implemented performance evaluation systems for tenured and nontenured teachers.  These include schools located in City of Chicago School District 299 (CPS), as well as schools in districts that are the recipients of either School Improvement Grants (SIG) awarded under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act or grants issued through the Race to the Top (RttT) initiative.  The remaining school districts in the state – as well as those schools in SIG and RttT districts not receiving benefits from those grant proceeds – must begin implementation of performance evaluation systems beginning in the 2015-16 school year (for districts whose student performance is among the lowest 20 percent statewide) or 2016-17 (for all other districts that have not yet implemented performance evaluation systems).

Central to the design of performance evaluation systems incorporating data and indicators of student growth is a collaborative process between school district administrators and teacher representatives to determine the way in which student growth will be measured (Section 24A-4 of the School Code).  Called the "joint committee", this group by law has 180 days in which to identify the process to be used for measuring growth.  If any committee fails to do so within 180 days, then its respective school district must adopt those components of the State Performance Evaluation Model established by the State Board for which no agreement was reached.  These requirements do not apply to CPS, whose joint committee has 90 days to establish a plan and if it is unable to do so, the district may implement its "last best proposal".

Section 50.110 lists the key components that all school districts, including CPS, would be required to address in any teacher evaluation plan measuring school growth.  These components include the identification of the minimum portion of a teacher's overall performance evaluation rating that must constitute student growth, the types of assessments that may be considered to measure growth, and the need to identify a measurement model for each assessment chosen.  A joint committee deliberating these considerations may be unable to agree upon one or more components, however, and at that point, the school district would be required to adopt the applicable components set forth in the State Performance Evaluation Model.  New Section 50.210, which will set forth the parameters of the State Performance Evaluation Model, addresses each of these components as described below.

Student Growth.  Section 50.210(a) repeats the statutory requirement of Section 24A-7 of the School Code that the State Performance Evaluation Model provide that student growth comprise 50 percent of the teacher's final performance evaluation rating.  The 50 percent threshold must be used by any district whose joint committee could not agree in its performance evaluation plan on the percentage of student growth to be used.

Assessments.  Section 50.210(b) uses a Student Learning Objective (SLO) process as the mechanism to identify assessments that are appropriate for and collaboratively chosen by the teacher being evaluated and his or her qualified evaluator.  Additionally, the SLO process is a supportable process to use to identify assessments to measure student growth of students with certain characteristics (e.g., special education placement, English language learners, low-income populations) to ensure that the assessments used to evaluate a teacher best measure the impact that the teacher has on these students’ academic achievement (see Section 50.210(c)). 

The SLO process begins with the identification of two student learning goals (along with growth expectations for each) that are specific to the teacher's content/course of instruction and/or grade level of students taught.  In response to concerns of IEA/IFT, the teacher being evaluated is given the opportunity to suggest four SLOs, which include the learning goal, growth expectation and assessment, to be considered for measuring the teacher's impact on student growth.  The teacher and his or her qualified evaluator then collaboratively choose the two (or one, if only one assessment was the subject of joint committee disagreement) to be incorporated into the teacher's evaluation plan. 

The learning goal or goals to be included in the evaluation plan must align to schoolwide or districtwide initiatives or the school improvement plan, as those initiatives or goals relate to the teacher's content area of instruction.  Further, any assessment chosen must validly measure student learning over time that is specific to the learning goal that each identified.  The assessment chosen cannot be one about which the joint committee already disagreed, which will prevent the teacher/evaluator from becoming mired in the same issues that forced them to default to the State Performance Evaluation Model initially.  There is no prohibition, however, against using an assessment for which there was agreement of the joint committee if that assessment is appropriate for measuring student progress relative to the identified learning goal.  Finally, in consideration of suggestions from both PEAC and IEA/IFT, the proposed rules require that a review of the growth expectations occur at the midpoint of the evaluation cycle to ensure that those expectations remain appropriate.  If not, the growth expectations should be modified as may be necessary.

By way of supporting understanding of the SLO process, new Section 50.220 lists the minimum information that must be assembled as part of the process.  While IEA/IFT encouraged the State Board to require school districts to use an agency-developed template as they progress through the SLO process, staff believe that flexibility is essential so that the SLO process adequately addresses the individual needs and goals of the teachers, school or district.  A sample template will be posted on the agency's website.  It may be used as is or adapted by school districts, as applicable to their particular circumstances.

While the SLO process was developed as a tool for classroom teachers to use for selecting and/or developing classroom assessments as part of the implementation of balanced assessment systems, its application to the performance evaluation process will help both the teacher and evaluator identify meaningful goals for student learning, encourage collaboration and understanding, and work to improve instructional effectiveness by monitoring student and teacher progress toward the learning goal.  As noted above, its use for evaluating the impact teachers have on the academic growth of certain student populations with diverse learning needs helps to tailor evaluation systems to more effectively assess the performance of those teachers.

The proposed rule at Section 50.210(b)(4) also recognizes that agreement may not be reached between the teacher and his or her evaluator about the learning goal, growth expectations and/or assessments to be used to measure student growth.  The proposed rule provides two options for making a final determination, which are dependent upon whether agreement is not reached on one or both SLOs.  In the former situation when only one SLO is in dispute, the decision-making is given to another qualified evaluator in the district who is chosen collaboratively by the individuals who could not agree.  Additionally, specific timelines for action are proposed in the rule so that the student growth portion of the evaluation plan can be implemented in a timely fashion.  In the latter situation when both SLOs are in dispute, the teacher chooses one of the SLOs to include and his or her qualified evaluator chooses the other SLO, with their decisions being final.

Rating Scale.  The joint committee also must identify the ratings to be used for student growth, if those ratings are different than the categories of "unsatisfactory", "needs improvement", "proficient" and "excellent" required under Section 24A-5 of the School Code for the final performance evaluation rating assigned.  If agreement is not reached in this regard, a school district under the State Performance Evaluation Model would be required to use the Section 24A-5 categories and apply them on the basis of the percentage of students who have met the growth target for the learning goal.  (See Section 50.210(d) for specific percentage ranges.)

Performance Evaluation Rating.  Although not specific to student growth and therefore, not required to be included in the State Performance Evaluation Model, Section 50.230 sets forth a the performance evaluation ratings to be used that consider the 50/50 split that the performance evaluation rating will have between professional practice rating and student growth rating.  When agreement is not reached in this regard, the school district would use the applicable combination of the professional practice rating and student growth rating set forth in Section 50.230 to determine a final rating of "unsatisfactory", "needs improvement", "proficient" and "excellent" to be assigned. 

Performance Evaluation Advisory Council Discussion

The teacher representatives on PEAC expressed concern about the use of a second qualified evaluator to be the arbiter when, using the state model, the teacher being evaluated and the evaluator are unable to identify the learning goals to be addressed, the growth targets to be measured and/or assessments to be used (see Section 50.210(b)(4)) for one or both SLOs.  These PEAC members said using a second qualified evaluator, who most often would be another administrator, would result in the final decision being an administrative one that has the potential to disadvantage the teacher in the evaluation process. 

Educator Licensure staff, however, believe that requiring the use of a second qualified evaluator -- which may be a teacher or an administrator -- to make the final decision is a reasonable compromise that puts the decision-making process in the hands of a neutral third party.  As proposed in the rules, the teacher and qualified evaluator will choose the second evaluator from among all individuals in the district trained to conduct performance evaluations.  In this way, the teacher and qualified evaluator have an equal opportunity to ensure that the second evaluator is impartial and appropriate.  The compromise also recognizes that the teacher being evaluated has an inherent conflict of interest when making a final determination about how he or she will be evaluated.  Likewise, the qualified evaluator who would be conducting the evaluation of the teacher may champion only his or her position, possibly without consideration of the teacher's input or point of view.  This approach was slightly modified in response to IEA/IFT recommendations to allow for the teacher being evaluated and his or her qualified evaluator to each choose one SLO, when two SLOs are in dispute, but continues to use the second qualified evaluator process when only one SLO is in dispute.

One PEAC member also asked that the rules provide a process by which the results from the individual assessments are combined to determine the final student growth rating assigned.  Proposed Section 50.210(b)(2) already requires that the results be weighed equally, with results from each assessment constituting 50 percent of the total student growth rating assigned.  To make this clearer in the rules, and in response to the question raised, the proposed rules were modified to require that the percentage of students considered to meet the growth expectation from each assessment would be averaged and, using that result, the student growth rating determined through the percentage ranges provided in Section 50.210(d) for "unsatisfactory", "needs improvement", "proficient" and " excellent".

Finally, the IEA/IFT suggested adding to the rules a process that the teacher being evaluated and his or her qualified evaluator to employ to review and revise, as necessary, the professional practice rating or the student growth rating when these are "disparate", meaning that the ratings are two or more levels apart (i.e., "excellent" in one and "needs improvement" or "unsatisfactory" in the other; "proficient" in one and "unsatisfactory" in the other").  The purpose of the review, the unions said, would be to adjust the ratings for "unfairness or inconsistency".  The suggestion is well thought out and joint committees could encourage school districts to review evidence gathered for professional practice and student growth when a significant gap is noted between the two ratings.  This recommendation, however, goes beyond the scope of the State Performance Evaluation Model, which is focused on student growth only.  Staff will consider articulating this process or a similar one in agency guidance, much as it has with its encouragement of the use of the Danielson Framework to evaluate the professional practice, as this approach also is not mandated by rules.

Initial Review by State Board of Education: June 2014

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