State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson visited Marshall Academy for the Arts this week to share the state’s new “Greatness by Design” report on educator excellence – a report that spotlights the Long Beach Unified School District’s methods of evaluating teachers and administrators.
In the report, a state task force formed by Torlakson calls for sweeping improvements in the way California educators are recruited, trained, mentored and evaluated.
"This is the most comprehensive look our state has taken at California's most important profession – teaching – in a generation," said Torlakson, who created the 48-member Task Force on Educator Excellence in January in partnership with the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Torlakson appointed LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser as co-chair of the task force along with Stanford University researcher Linda Darling-Hammond, who also serves as vice-chair of the CTC.
Torlakson commended LBUSD on the quality of its schools.
“I’ve been to a number of schools here, and you have an outstanding reputation academic-ally and athletically, and great community support,” Torlakson said during a roundtable discussion with Steinhauser, Marshall Principal Michael Navia and Marshall teachers Cynthia Trecker, Ron Harmon and Susan Hubbs. Also participating were Los Angeles Unified School District teacher Martha Infante, CTC Chair Charles Gahagan, and David Rattrey, who is senior vice president of education and workforce development for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re looking at the pioneering work – the stellar work – that’s going on here in Long Beach, particularly regarding the evaluation of teachers. Truly what you’re doing here exemplifies the best of practices,” Torlakson said.
The 90-page Greatness by Design report includes a section about LBUSD’s teacher evaluation methods, describing practices that have raised student achievement while helping to retain effective teachers.
“In award-winning Long Beach, California, a predominantly minority district widely recognized for achievement gains, teachers are evaluated through observations on their performance in relation to the California Standards for the Teaching Profession. In addition, teachers and administrators together set goals for student progress and improvements in practice at the school level, as teams within departments or grade levels and as individuals,” the report states. “Progress toward these goals is taken into account in both self-evaluations and supervisory evaluations.
“The evaluatee proposes how achievement of his or her objectives can be assessed, using evidence such as: teacher observation; anecdotal and cumulative records; success and progress on a continuum of learning or course of study; teacher, department or school-made tests for pre-testing and post-testing; curriculum-related tests; use of audio-visual documentation if desired and available; student self-evaluations; discussion with students and parents; records of students’ past learning performances; files of students’ work collected to show growth; and other sources.
“The Long Beach district creates explicit and ongoing opportunities for schools, departments and grade level teams to review student work and test score data of various kinds, to evaluate progress within and across classrooms, to discuss curriculum and teaching strategies, to problem-solve regarding the needs of individuals and groups of students and to plan for improvements,” the report adds.
The task force that produced the report included teachers, parents, principals, superintendents, and business and community leaders, as well as leading academics.
"The most successful educator evaluation systems are those that rely upon research-based best practices to help teachers and administrators improve their craft," LBUSD Superintendent Steinhauser said. "Collaboration is key to developing these systems, with all parties focused on the ultimate goal of improving student achievement."
The report opens with a message from Torlakson, himself a teacher, who notes that budget cuts and other factors have made teaching more difficult.
"The good news is that California is home to some of the very best ideas and research on how to train new teachers and principals, support them from their first days in the classroom to their last, and give them the kind of feedback they need to be even better," Torlakson said.
Download the full report here.