Standard 6 allows teachers to create authentic assessment that measures ‘what matters most’
CASTLE ROCK – Beginning next fall, student performance data will play a much larger role in teacher evaluations throughout Colorado. In the Douglas County School District (DCSD) teacher leaders have been working to build a Balanced Assessment System that will prepare the District for the change.
Senate Bill 191, passed in 2010, dictates that half of an educator’s annual evaluation is based on the growth of their students’ learning over time. DCSD System Performance Officer Syna Morgan says it is a big change, because not only is that a significant amount of a teacher’s evaluation—but this is the first time that the state has mandated that student data be considered.
“This is the first time that teacher evaluation includes impact on student performance,” Morgan said. “Some of the Districts in the state have already moved in that direction, but for Colorado as a state—this is the first time we’ve moved in that direction.”
Morgan says one of the largest misconceptions she hears from DCSD’s teachers and parents is that Standard 6 was prompted by the District’s Pay for Performance System.
“Standard 6 is not about Pay for Performance. Standard 6 is about Senate Bill 191, the educator evaluation redesign,” Morgan explained. “In Douglas County, it just so happens that the teacher evaluation system is how we rate teachers and then the rating of a teacher determines their eligibility in Pay for Performance.”
After the passage of the law, Morgan and her department set out to create DCSD’s system. She says the state has provided the flexibility needed to build a system that meets the District’s goal of authentically assessing students on what matters most, not just the state standardized test.
“We knew that the law set some very clear parameters, but we had a lot of room for the design of the model. So, we wanted teachers to be actively involved in that process,” Morgan explained.
They pulled together more than 300 teachers from across the District in different groups, representing not only each grade level, but also the specialized roles within DCSD. The group was nicknamed the “Standard 6 Taskforce.”
“They really embraced the idea that we were going to build the ideal. If we had the flexibility to have the ideal model, that would truly be transparent, fair, accurate and authentic, what would it be?” Morgan said.
The teacher leaders in the Taskforce were tasked with drafting recommendations for the ideal Standard 6 model. This included delineating the categories of individual and collective attribution.
“The law has requirements that part of Standard 6 is individual attribution, which means ‘my impact on my students,’ and part of it is collective attribution, which means ‘my impact on all of our students.’ It gives that really cohesive feel of, ‘I impact my kids’ performance, but I am also part of a team at the school,’” Morgan said.
The Standard 6 Taskforce balanced the need for a model that had consistent expectations for all teachers, and at the same time considered the unique needs of each grade level and each specialized role.
While the discussion of integrating student assessment into a teacher’s evaluation is high-stakes and can elicit strong emotions and differing opinions at times—the Standard 6 Taskforce was able to use the Crucial Conversations discussion strategy to keep the group moving forward.
“Everyone develops their own understanding of concept. Everyone has opportunity to be heard,” Morgan explained.
“I am very proud of the group. It was cognitively demanding work,” she added.
How Standard 6 Will Work
Senate Bill 212 requires that every district have a Balanced Assessment System (BAS). Senate Bill 191 requires that multiple measures be used to evaluate educators. Standard 6 is designed to utilize assessments from the BAS system, including formative assessment practices that monitor progress, interims that benchmark growth, and summative assessments that measure student mastery of the learning outcomes.
Unlike other aspects of the educator evaluation system, the state has not created a model of it’s own for Standard 6. Instead it provided guidance and each school district in the state must create its own requirements for Standard 6.
“We in Douglas County — and many districts in the state --- are looking at what does a balanced assessment approach look like, when it becomes part of a teacher body of evidence?” explained Morgan.
While some districts have chosen to create a “value-added” model, Douglas County and several other districts have chosen a criterion-referenced model that uses the student learning objectives framework. In this situation, the district, schools and/or teachers set student growth targets and teachers are evaluated on that the extent to which that growth has been achieved.
As Morgan explains, multiple measures from the Balanced Assessment System are used to determine the degree of student growth. DCSD believes this balanced approach, in which we are not solely making judgements based on the state’s assessment, allows for a more authentic assessment of our students.
“The body of evidence based on our local assessment data and that’s directly aligned to the teaching and learning in the classroom is more authentic to the teaching and the learning, so we want to value that,” explained Morgan. “We also value the state assessment perspective, because that gives us an ability to do comparison analysis to the broader state. We also value the national and international assessments that we give, because that even gives us an even broader perspective.”
The balanced approach is also beneficial due to the fact that state assessment data is not available to schools until late in the summer, well after teacher evaluations for the year are complete. Morgan says DCSD’s system will use the state results to verify the rest of the data already gathered.
“We will use the state summative results in confirming the evaluation of the teacher’s impact on student performance. If there is a disconnect, it becomes a professional growth conversation between the teacher and their supervisor,” Morgan said.
“When we look at it longitudinally, we’re not looking at one point at one time,” added Morgan. “If overall a teacher’s performance is high and their impact on growth is high, then a single data point doesn’t fit would be considered an anomaly. A root cause analysis would help identify what was specific about that set of data,” Morgan said.
A teacher’s evaluation for the prior year would not be changed based on those state results.
Rollout begins in July
By state law, Standard 6 must take effect in school districts for the next school year. In Douglas County, teachers will notice a slow, deliberate roll out of Standard 6 beginning in August.
While schools and teachers will have steps to complete throughout the year, Morgan says that the district will move carefully through each step of implementation.
She says schools and teachers will be heavily supported with resources, professional development and technical assistance during the process.
“Anytime you add something that is brand new to the system, there is an implementation and refinement process,” Morgan said. “We want to make sure the model itself is refined and corrected to be the most accurate, fair and authentic model we can develop.”
The System Performance and Assessment Department is also applying lessons learned from other states, where they’ve tied teacher performance to student achievement data.
“By the end of next year, when the evaluation cycle is complete and they are utilizing the Standard 6 model to make the judgment of their impact on student growth, they can be very confident that we’ve spent a lot of time in that refinement process,” Morgan said.
Originally Published 5/19/13