Evaluating Teachers of ELLs in the Age of the CCSS

Now that school districts are implementing the CCSS to various degrees, a question that is being asked more frequently is how teacher evaluation systems will be aligned to the new demands of the CCSS. For those of us who work with ELLs, the question becomes even more complex and reads something like this: “How will teacher evaluation systems that are aligned to the CCSS take ELLs’ strengths and challenges into consideration?”

While I don’t have one single, succinct answer to that question, I will share with you some initiatives taking place that are focusing on providing different perspectives on improving teacher evaluation for all teachers who teach ELLs. In this post, I will highlight efforts from the American Federation of Teachers, the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, and the American Institutes for Research that are shining a light on the need for teacher evaluation systems aligned to the CCSS to be inclusive of ELLs. I will end with a description of two sets of professional standards that can inform teacher evaluation systems that are inclusive of ELLs.

The American Federation of Teachers’ E3TL Consortium

The EducatAFT logo_centeredor Evaluation for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (E3TL) Consortium is a collaborative initiative representing the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals (RIFTHP).

The Consortium is in the midst of a five-year pilot project, funded by the Department of Education’s i3–Investing in Innovation–grants and the AFT’s Innovation Fund, that is focusing on implementation of state-of-the-art teacher development and evaluation systems across ten districts in New York and Rhode Island using the Charlotte Danielson teaching standards as the basis for each state’s rubric. The pilot includes the evaluation of teachers of special populations – ELLs and students with disabilities.

The E3TL pilot assists five districts each in Rhode Island and New York with implementation of performance-based teacher development and evaluation systems. As part of the E3TL Consortium, the unique considerations of what excellent teaching looks like for all students, including ELLs and students with disabilities, are brought to light.

In the first phase of the E3TL pilot, Diane August, Delia Pompa, and I provided guidance to NY and RI as the states’ groups analyzed and revised certain aspects of these states’ teacher observation performance indicators. The goal was that the indicators defined “look-fors” which exemplified effective teaching for all teachers who work with ELLs, not only ESL teachers.

The collaborative process included ESL teachers, administrators, and union representatives from both states. Next, teachers shared the draft teacher observation rubrics at their schools for feedback. Finally, the observation rubrics were refined and will be piloted next year. As a cornerstone of preparing evaluators to recognize effective teaching for ELLs, the AFT is also designing professional development around issues and considerations in evaluating all teachers who work with ELLs. AFT anticipates that other states and districts will be inspired by this model of inclusive teaching for all students and that other states and districts will adapt their teacher evaluation rubrics to make them inclusive of all students, including ELLs.

The Shared Values as a Framework for Teacher Evaluation of All Students

The E3TL pilot is framed by the “shared values,” which are four research- and expertise-based principles the AFT advocates that outline conditions necessary for all students – including ELLs and students with disabilities – to be successful learners in general education classrooms.  The shared values brief emerged from the project and was a collaborative piece written by Diane August, learning disabilities experts Spencer Salend and Peter Kozik, and myself.

The four shared values, that can guide the development of teacher evaluation systems for all students in the age of the CCSS, are that effective general education classrooms:

1. Provide all students with equal access to a meaningful, challenging, engaging, appropriate and responsive general education curriculum, and the necessary services and supports that help students succeed in school and in society

2. Are designed to be sensitive to and promote acceptance of all students’ individual strengths, challenges and backgrounds.

3. Are characterized by teaching that is guided by the use of the principles of universal design for learning and evidence-based practices with all students, including ELLs and students with disabilities

4. Recognize that student success is a group effort and establish a community that is based on collaboration among educators, students, caregivers, families, neighbors, and other relevant groups

American Federation of Teachers’ CCSS Teacher Evaluation Conference

Recently I had the opportunity to co-present about the shared values and the E3TL pilot at a small conference organized around the connection between teacher evaluation and the CCSS sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers. The conference was called Connecting the Dots: Collaboratively Moving from a Sorting System to a Learning System. School districts representing nine states attended the conference held in Providence, RI. Presenters included Charlotte Danielson, who is releasing a new set of frameworks that align her work with CCSS. She spoke about how participants can understand the demands of a defensible system of teacher evaluation; recognize the opportunity presented by the Common Core State Standards to transform the conversation among professionals; and establish how to transform teacher evaluation to a rich system for professional learning. AFT President Randi Weingarten’s presentation was called Moving Forward with Common Core Standards and Teacher Development and Evaluation. In it, she stressed that the CCSS need to be thoroughly implemented and integrated with teacher development, teacher evaluation systems, curriculum, and assessments. You can find all the conference materials here.

National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality

 ImageThe National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality has also been exploring the topic of teacher evaluation for all teachers of ELLs. NCCTQ convened a forum of experts in December 2011 to discuss current efforts to develop evaluation systems designed to assess how well all teachers of ELLs are educating these students. Forum participants agreed that teacher evaluation systems should be aligned with the CCSS and with the Next Generation Science Standards to ensure that ELLs are provided with the instruction and support they need to meet the content standards. After the forum, NCCTQ produced this report that highlighted challenges in evaluating teachers of ELLs, current efforts related to teacher evaluation and ELLs, and state and district considerations when designing evaluation systems.

American Institutes for Research Pocket Guide

ImageIn addition, work is being done to evaluate how current evaluation systems address ELLs’ needs.  For example, a team of researchers at the American Institutes for Research led by Diane August just released a guide for supporting English language learners. The guide will assist states and districts implement the plans they proposed related to win US Department of Education flexibility waivers from parts of the No Child Left Behind law.

August’s guide, which Education Week blogger Lesli Maxwell recently showcased here, shares that “few, if any, evaluation systems for teachers and administrators address the specialized skills it takes to work effectively with English-learners.” The guide anticipates that the adoption of the waivers should change the way evaluation systems are designed to be inclusive of ELLs.

The guide recommends the following considerations for states and districts to use when developing teacher evaluation systems that are inclusive of ELLs:

  1. Develop evaluation systems reflecting the special knowledge and skills that teachers require to effectively educate ELLs.
  2. Develop exemplars of teaching practice at different levels of teaching proficiency to guide evaluators in evaluating effective teaching practices for ELLs.
  3. Build the capacity of schools and districts to implement teacher evaluation systems that drive improved instruction for ELLs.
  4. Connect evaluation standards and teacher preparation programs.

Professional Standards Inform the Teacher Evaluation Process

A final resource to consider is the use of professional teaching standards as part of the teacher evaluation process. Professional teaching standards provide a starting point for states and districts to draw upon to paint a picture of what good teaching for ELLs may look like on the ground.  Two sets of standards in particular have been used throughout the field in this capacity:

The above-mentioned AFT’s E3TL pilot, the AIR guide, and the NCCTQ report highlight these standards as sources of guidance for states and districts to use when designing teacher evaluation systems for all teachers that are inclusive of ELLs. While both sets of standards were developed prior to the CCSS, they describe effective teaching practices for ELLs that support ELLs as they develop academic language and challenging content simultaneously. TESOL’s P-12 Professional Teaching Standards will be revised by 2016, and they will be correlated with the new demands of college and career-ready instruction for ELLs. (I know this because I will be facilitating their revision as TESOL’s NCATE Program Coordinator). I would also bet that NBPTS will connect their ENL standards with the CCSS when the NBPTS standards undergo their next revision.

On the Ground

What’s happening in your school or district in terms of teacher evaluation?  Has your district made any changes into its evaluation system to include the CCSS and ELLs? If so, how are the unique characteristics of ELLs accessing the CCSS taken into consideration in your teacher evaluation system?  If they are not currently taken into consideration, are there any plans to adjust the evaluation system in the future? Tell us!

7 thoughts on “Evaluating Teachers of ELLs in the Age of the CCSS

  1. Hello Diane, Thank you very much for this update! New evaluation systems are being rolled out in my district, concurrent with CCSS, so this is timely.

    There is a lot to absorb here, but my first read through leave me uneasy. I’m seeing a lot about systems to evaluate teachers so that “ELLs are provided with the instruction and support they need to meet the content standards.” An ELL, by definition, is not at grade level in English and cannot be expected to “meet” all grade-level standards though English-medium instruction.

    That is not to say that ELLs shouldn’t get excellent instruction and have meaningful *access* to rich content. It’s a civil rights issue, and they deserve no less. But unlike the other group often referred to in the same breath, students with disabilities, being an ELL is a temporary condition. As students become proficient in English, they exit and should go on to meet grade-level standards in the regular program.

    If they are still ELLs, it is precisely because they don’t have enough English to *meet* most content standards (when tested in English.) To implement a system that demands English proficiency of ELLs would put teachers in a classic catch-22 paradox, a demoralizing prospect.

    That said, I do see encouraging signs here that content instruction for ELLs will be prioritized. If it’s done well, this could be a step in the right direction.

    Page, Middle School ELL Teacher

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