The State Board of Education will vote on several significant changes to DPAS II at its June 19th meeting. The changes, proposed by the Department of Education, would have a significant impact on the performance evaluations for teachers and specialists. The three most impactful changes are:
DSEA has consistently opposed these changes and attempted to bring about a more substantive consideration of our problems and concerns. Unfortunately, success in that area has been elusive.
As part of the process of advocating for our members in this area, DSEA is sharing the following information: The steps DSEA has taken in opposition to the proposed changes and DSEA’s response to the potential impact of these changes.
DSEA has consistently voiced its concern and opposition to these proposed changes of DPAS II, submitting official comments in opposition last week. In addition to the organization's work, several of your colleagues testified in opposition to the changes at the most recent State Board meeting. Jennifer Smith (Appoquinimink) and Scott Cole (Smyrna), DSEA's representatives on the DPAS II Advisory Committee, and Steve Rulon, President of the Brandywine Education Association, submitted their own comments to the
State Board, in addition to testifying at the meeting. The State Board also received official letters of opposition from 14 of the 19 local associations representing teachers and specialists.
Each of the letters from your local association leaders is included below, as well as DSEA's official letter of opposition. When you click on the respective letter, it will open up a PDF in a separate window.
Form: Pre-Observation vs. Observation
Since its inception, DPAS has included announced and unannounced observations. In the announced observation, both teachers and specialists complete a pre-observation form before meeting with their evaluator prior to the observation date. In contrast, an unannounced observation, by definition, is not known to the teacher and, therefore, the need for a pre-observation form is moot since you can't do a pre-observation form after the observation has occurred. Since 1991, the system has always had the pre-observation form and limited its use to the announced observation process.
DSEA believes that the proposed change is being done to allow teachers and specialists to provide written evidence which the form's questions require. Following an unannounced observation, the supervisor would engage the teacher or specialist in a rich conversation aimed at critiquing the different areas observed, with the resulting answers satisfying the questions which appeared on the "pre-observation form" used in announced observations. This change destroys the integrity and value of the post-observation conference by allowing for the form to become a formal part of the unannounced observation, including the requirement that employees fill it out prior to conferencing.
Teachers and specialists understand that evidence of planning and preparation are fair topics for discussion during a post-observation meeting. DSEA position is that the change does not respect the value of the member/evaluator conference and unnecessarily seeks to streamline a part of the observation, the discussion, and relegate it to a simple "fill out form and submit."
Walkthrough: Using "Shorts" as part of an evaluation
Short observations or walkthroughs have been used as a coaching tool for the purpose of formative development. As such, walkthroughs have allowed teachers to take risks and implement innovative strategies without subjecting themselves to negative consequences in the evaluation process.
Regulations require that observations be at least 30 minutes in length, in order to allow the evaluator enough time to analyze the lesson and observe the teacher-student interaction. DOE's proposes to add a third type of evaluation, the "short" observation, which will be no less than 10 minutes in length and is in addition to the required announced and unannounced observations. DSEA does not believe the Department's proposal provides any guidance to an evaluator regarding which components and criteria the "shorts" could be used for. Additionally, DSEA objects to the fact that the proposed changes do not indicate whether the "short" could be used to trigger an improvement plan. This represents a troubling lack of specific information. Finally, the Year-Six Report survey of teachers and specialists showed that, when asked about walkthroughs, 49.86% said walkthroughs should not be part of a formative evaluation and 57.34% said they should not be part of a summative evaluation. Implementing the proposed change will further erode trust in the evaluation system.
Therefore, DSEA feels the State Board should vote down the proposed change in favor of convening a work-group to analyze the proposed changes and make informed recommendations.
Ratings: Needs Improvement vs. Unsatisfactory
Under the current guidelines, a teacher or specialist receiving "Satisfactory" ratings in three or four of the components can be rated as "Needs Improvement" if their rating on Component Five does not reflect satisfactory growth. Put simply, no matter how well an educator is rated on Components One through Four, the determining factor of their overall rating is left to the results of Component Five. This proposed change to the regulations does nothing to address the complexities at work in determining an overall performance rating. Rather, it merely changes the label attached. So, instead of having an insufficient Component Five result in a "Needs Improvement" rating, this change would turn that "Needs Improvement" into an "Unsatisfactory."
It is baffling to think that a teacher or specialist could obtain "distinguished" marks on 14 or more of the 18 total criteria across Components One through Four yet still be labeled as "Unsatisfactory" in their job performance because of the Component Five result. Clearly, this represents a disproportionate amount of weight given to Component Five.
DSEA questions how exactly this change, and the potential results, achieve the stated purpose of DPAS II, which is to foster "educators' professional growth, continuous improvement of student outcomes, and quality teachers in every building and classroom." In light of these very serious problems, DSEA has requested that the State Board vote down this proposed changed.
In a March 31st letter to members of the Delaware General Assembly, DSEA President Frederika Jenner called for support in issuing a moratorium on the use of Component V scores in teacher evaluations "until such time as a fair, valid, and reliable method for evaluating student growth... can be determined." The letter provided a deep explanation of the problems and frustrations felt by educators and administrators across the state with the current system and offer avenues to fix and make the system actually do what it is supposed to do.
The letter, understandably, ellicited media coverage from the News Journal. Click on the links listed below to read the full letter sent to the General Assembly and the resulting coverage in the News Journal.
News Journal (April 3, 2014): Teachers Seek Evaluations Moratorium
WBOC evening news (April 3, 2014): http://goo.gl/r76iEf
Delegates to the 2014 DSEA Representative Assembly voted on and passed five new business items. Click the links below to read each new business item in its entirety.
New Business Items 2-6 (NBI #1 was withdrawn at the Rep. Assembly)
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