Mark Morris is one of two high schools in Longview, Wash. (Photo by Kaley Perkins)
When Washington’s K-12 public teachers and administrators return to school this September, new students aren’t the only things they will need to get to know. This fall, teachers will come face to face with Washington’s new evaluation system known as the Teacher Principal Evaluation Pilot, or “TPEP.”
In 2011, President Obama passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (“ESEA”) which provides a flexible option for state education boards to satisfy No Child Left Behind Act (“NCLB” or “Nickle B”). ESEA’a goal is to increase student learning through high quality instruction. The evaluation tool TPEP measures how classroom teachers, school principals, and assistant principals provide that high quality.
TPEP’s legislative pedigree is in orange. Structure of local Longview School District’s educational governance is in blue. Who is performing evaluations on whom is in green. (Infographic created by Kaley Perkins. Use of this graphic is permissible with attribution.)
If you have fallen asleep by now, you aren’t a teacher in Washington state.
“This is a ridiculous amount of change to expect teachers to make,” said Jo Perkins, President of the Longview Education Association (“LEA”) in a recent interview. Perkins referred to another significant initiatives that significantly impacts teachers’ responsibilities: adoption of the state’s curriculum overhaul also known as Core Curriculum Competencies.
Additionally, Longview has suffered through a year of contentious discussion as its school board and community conduct feasibility on a massive facility reorganization.
Perkins, who was a 22- year veteran, special education teacher before becoming the president of Longview’s teacher union, is the author’s sister.
“Teachers don’t know what to think about TPEP. I am hearing a lot of anxiety but also some cautious excitement,” Perkins said, sitting under the emergent mid-morning sunshine on her back deck with a Robert K. Tanenbaum novel, one of summer’s last pleasure reads, perched on her knee.
The anxiety comes, according to Perkins, because teachers are really concerned about losing their livelihoods. “We are living in a climate where teachers are blamed for societies ills. They are not feeling job security, and they feel like this new evaluation mechanism may be a ruse to justify firing them.”
“I think that falls more inside the lines of paranoia,” said Tracey Schroeder, assistant principal of Longview’s Mark Morris High school. Schroeder, an alumni of R. A. Long, Mark Morris’s rival high school, spent years teaching math in Las Vegas, Nevada before sitting for her administrative papers and returning to Longview to serve as a school administrator. Her Nevada district used an evaluation system similar to TPEP.
Schroeder and Perkins discussed how to best relieve teachers’ anxiety. Perkins suggested developing a common vocabulary. She hopes educational leaders will clearly explain what successful evidence of student progress looks like to educators. As the conversation broadened, Perkins expressed that local teachers sincerely want to be the best they can and are frustrated by what they perceive to be receiving edicts from leadership without explanation.
Schroeder gave a specific example of how she prepared for her evaluations when she was a Nevada teacher. She added that it is critical for teachers to become familiar with the CEL 5D rubric, the framework that the district has adopted. (Photo by Kaley Perkins)
Sipping ice water at local restaurant, Schroeder explained the benefit of the TPEP. “The old (evaluation) system was ‘Satisfactory v. Unsatisfactory.’ From an evaluator’s (administrator’s) point of view, it didn’t allow me to recognize the things teachers were doing that were really effective or to identify the areas that were ripe for improvement. It was ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’”
Schroeder feels the TPEP provides an effective framework for staff development.
Participants in pilot districts were overwhelmingly favorable about the program, feeling it has great potential for creating increased professional collaboration around a common goal. They expressed that the primary challenge of the pilot program’s implementation was the time required on top of already hectic schedules.
Tracey Schroeder is Assistant Principal at Mark Morris High School in Longview, Washington. Schroeder experienced a 4 point evaluation system when she worked as a math teacher in Nevada. She enjoyed the feedback.
“What is going to come off of your plate to make room for the evaluations you are going to be required to do?” Perkins asked Schroeder.
Schroeder just laughed. “My personal life exploded last year, so I’m feeling kind of glad that I don’t have a partner or kids to worry about.”
Perkins, whose pet peeve is the notion that teachers are more noble if they sacrifice their personal lives for the sake of their work, growled.
“The best thing teachers can do,” Schroeder advised, “is to become familiar with the rubric. Longview has adopted the University of Washington’s “CEL 5D” model for its evaluation framework.