Pennsylvania’s efforts to improve teacher evaluations must be combined with meaningful tools and supports to help teachers become more effective in the classroom, according to the head of the Commonwealth’s leading children’s advocacy organization.
“Teachers, just like their students, need more than just feedback – they also need the right resources to improve and do their best in the classroom,” said Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
“High-quality teacher evaluations can be important roadmaps to help teachers reach their full potential, but evaluations alone are not enough,” Benso added. “Teachers also need quality training, mentoring and solid professional development opportunities to help them grow in their profession.”
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children last night hosted a “Making the Grade Virtual Town Hall Meeting on Effective Teaching” that drew more than 1,400 participants and featured a discussion moderated by Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis. The town hall is part of a growing public discussion on ways to improve teacher effectiveness and boost student achievement.
PPC also will testify at a House Education Committee meeting on Thursday, Nov. 3, to discuss efforts to improve Pennsylvania’s methods for evaluating teachers.
Teacher effectiveness is the focus of a PPC initiative called “Making the Grade: Effective Teaching in Every Classroom.” The goal is to raise awareness about the benefits of effective teaching on student achievement and advance the public policies needed to assure every child reaps the benefits of effective teaching.
An effective teacher has a ripple effect that benefits every Pennsylvanian. Better teachers help raise student achievement, making our graduates better prepared to compete and succeed, in turn strengthening the Commonwealth’s workforce and its economy.
Benso credited the state Department of Education and local school districts for their progress toward creating more meaningful teacher evaluations.
Last year, PDE worked with three school districts - Allentown City, Cornell and Mohawk Area - and Tri-County Intermediate Unit 5 on a pilot program to improve teacher evaluations. This year, the department launched a follow-up pilot program that involves more than 100 local education entities, including nearly 80 school districts.
The Pittsburgh School District also has begun innovative work through its Empowering Effective Teachers Project, which seeks to boost teacher effectiveness by measuring factors like teacher practices, academic growth and students’ classroom perceptions.
PPC supports the use of student achievement data in teacher evaluations, an aspect of classroom performance that is lacking in existing teacher evaluation methods. Benso said at least 23 other states require their teacher evaluations to include some objective evidence of student learning, and Pennsylvania should join that growing list.
“If you craft a fair, substantive method for helping teachers determine their strengths and weaknesses in the classroom – along with providing the tools to help them improve – you’ll find a solution that’s eagerly embraced by educators, students, parents and everyone who cares about making our schools better,” Benso said.