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For the Record: Teacher evaluation in contract talks

Sparring between CPS and CTU has recently focused on the issue of state-required teacher evaluations, with the union lambasting plans for a new evaluation system, first detailed in March.

The union says thousands of teachers could be at risk of being fired in the program’s first two years. But CPS says this is inaccurate.

Most likely, CTU is referring to CPS’ estimation – based on the district’s pilot teacher evaluation programs – that 1.5 percent of teachers would be rated as unsatisfactory and another 28 percent would fall into the second-lowest rating category, known as “needs improvement” or “developing teacher.”

But for this group of teachers, the district says, even a slight improvement year over year would protect them from being fired.

Teachers’ jobs would actually be safe “as long as you move at least a point in the right direction,” says CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. Teachers would be rated on a scale of 100 to 400 points.

Carroll says that the “needs improvement” or “developing teacher” rating “simply means that we will provide additional support to help them become proficient.”

“Only if there are two consecutive years of “needs improvement” and their total summative rating in year two decreases, will a teacher then be placed on the statutory remediation plan,” Carroll says.

Once a teacher is placed into remediation, by state law, they have 90 working days, amounting to about 18 weeks of school, to improve or be fired. Carroll says the two years with a needs improvement rating provide “ample time for a teacher in this category to improve.”

The district estimates that 56 percent of teachers would earn a rating of proficient, and 14 percent would get an excellent rating.

Carol Caref, who helps coordinate the Chicago Teachers Union’s Quest Center, says that even more teachers than the district estimates could end up in the evaluation system’s lower tiers.

Caref says the pilot program the CPS estimates are based on included more training for teachers – improving their ratings – than CPS teachers will get this year.

The union also wants the district to change the cut scores for each category. CPS already lowered the cut score for the second-lowest category, “Developing Teacher” or “Needs Improvement,” by 10 points, but CTU wants it lowered another 10 points, to 200 on a scale of 100 to 400.

The union also wants cut score for proficient lowered about 35 points, to 250; and scores for Excellent lowered by about 40 points, to 300 out of 400. This way, Caref says, the cut scores would correlate more closely with the 1-point to 4-point scale the entire rating system is based on.

Part of the issue, as well, is who is deemed “proficient.” Right now, Caref says, the description of teachers in the proficient category show “an outstanding teacher” who always uses best practices; CTU thinks the category should include teachers who use best teaching practices most of the time. “Most teachers are proficient,” Caref says.

The union also takes issue with teachers in the “Developing” category  being eligible for dismissal if their scores decline from one year to the next, saying that dismissal should be reserved for only the very lowest-scoring teachers.

State, feds prompt new ratings

The state requires that eventually at least 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be tied to student performance.

CPS has also submitted a letter of intent to apply for up to $40 million in federal funding through Race to the Top (for school districts). Applications are due Oct. 30. One of the factors CPS and other districts will be evaluated on is the quality of its teacher evaluation system and how well the system ties teacher performance ratings to student data.

Under CPS’ plan, the district would eventually tie at least 35 percent of evaluations to performance in the 2015-16 school year – 15 to 20 percent each to individual or school-wide value-added scores (for elementary teachers) or expected gains (for high school teachers), and to student growth on teacher-designed “performance task” assessments.

Value-added scores for elementary teachers will be distributed based on how far above or below the district average a teacher performs.

Performance task scores would be based on the percentage of a teacher’s students who move up one point on a 4-point scoring rubric by the end of the year. (Students who get the maximum score at both the start and end of year would be counted as having shown growth.) CPS says this scoring system was CTU’s idea.

CPS changes evaluation plans

Initially, CPS wanted to tie up to 40 percent of teachers’ evaluations to student growth in 2016-17, but it has now backed away from that plan – saying that instead, it wants the final year of implementation to be jointly agreed on by a union-district committee.

CPS also says it has offered the union numerous concessions, including:

*Making the first year of the evaluations a dry run for everyone except untenured probationary teachers. Originally, the evaluations would also have counted for those tenured teachers whose last rating was “unsatisfactory” or “satisfactory.”

*Evaluating “proficient” teachers less frequently – every two years, rather than every year. (“Excellent” teachers would also be evaluated every two years.)

*Conducting a joint CTU-CPS study on how the teacher evaluation plan is working and making the final year of implementation contingent on the agreement of a joint CTU-CPS committee, which can also modify the plan based on how it works out. Before, CPS wanted up to 40 percent of teachers’ ratings to be based on student growth in the final year.

*Renaming the “needs improvement” rating category as “developing teacher.”

*Allowing teachers to choose whether or not their first observation this school year counts toward their evaluation, or not.

*Implementing a limited appeals process for teachers whose evaluations are “clearly erroneous.”

But CTU is not satisfied with the appeals process the district has offered.  “It is very minimalistic,” says Jackson Potter, staff coordinator for the union. “It has all kinds of conditions that make it virtually meaningless.”


Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

so what will CPS do with the 92 $$$ administrators they hired

to implement teacher evaluation--seperate fropm principals? They found money for them and lots of $$$ for training them too. But no training for the teahers!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

What CPS REACH is not--Why Complex Teacher Evaluations Dont

Work, By Mike Schmoker
Here they come: those complex, bloated, evaluation templates that are now being dumped on teachers and administrators. These are supposed to make schools perform better.
Once again, we are rushing into a premature, ill-conceived innovation—without any solid evidence that it promotes better teaching. These jargon-laced, confusing documents are to be used to evaluate or even to compensate teachers on the basis of multiple, full-period, pre-announced classroom observations. Each observation is to be preceded and followed by meetings between teachers and administrators that will require enormous amounts of time, paperwork, and preparation. Like so many past reforms, this one will be launched nationally, like a bad movie, without being piloted and refined first. (Imagine if we did this with prescription drugs.) It will consume a disproportionate share of precious training time and promote misguided practices that could endure for the next decade. Rather than improve schools, it will only crowd out and postpone our highest, most urgent curricular and instructional priorities.
Read more--look it up.

northside wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

CPS Admin

Even Cps Admin (cheatem) admitted she was still learning how to evaluate teachers at the Reach demo at the Common Core meeting with CPS. She and another CPS admin rated a tacher in a video with two different scores???????

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Legality of the current CTU strike in relation to the two issues

the Mayor and CPS are focusing on. These issues are: 1. A new teacher evaluation system; 2 Teacher recall provisions. But let's be clear here the CTU stated yesterday that it had signed off on tentative sub agreements on only 6 of 48 or 49 total provisions in a contract the union would like to see.

The reason CPS is refusing to publicly acknowledge that there are massive issues outstanding is because they are attempting to create as the Sun Times speculated the context for the Mayor to "pull the trigger in seeking a court injunction to stop the strike."

While CPS and the Mayor are arguing they would much rather settle the dispute at the bargaining table than in a courtroom they none the less may be attempting to put the CTU into a trap. Let me explain how this trap might work and how the bait might be placed. Each of the articles of the expired CTU agreement probably can legally be determined to be either a subject covered by 115 ILCS 5/4.5 or a subject not covered.

If the CTU and CPS come to agreement on all non 4.5 areas and leave the other areas open for discussion then the trap might be closed. Because then CPS believes it can easily file for a court injunction to stop the strike because the formally outstanding issues are all covered by section 4.5 which are not strikable issues. But the CTU is also formally striking over unfair labor practices which is totally out of the scope of section 4.5 so that complicates the CPS strategy. How a judge would view all this is way beyond me. But it would seem best if the CTU simply refused to settle at least some aspects of any wage deal until and if CPS agrees to come to agreement on all outstanding articles from the prior contract that can be construed to be section 4.5 issues.

All of this brings me back to my continuing rant about how screwed up SB7 has made the entire collective bargaining process, but I am sure you all have heard that from me before. I am not going to get into the issues around the implementation of the Illinois Performance Evaluation Reform Act in relation to CPS because I honestly think it's too complex for a blog posting. Suffice it to simply say Jenn Ridder and I wrote an extensive white paper Access Living published in October 2011 titled Holding Educators Accountable for the Academic Growth of Students with Disabilities. The issues relating to value added measurement and testing instruments are extremely complex and if anyone wants to read through our analysis I will send you a copy of the white paper if you email me at

On the recall provisions. The arguments the Mayor, CPS Board member Dr. Hines, and some principals are making about the need for principals to select their own staff are all well and good, but many older senior teachers with good ratings from schools that have been closed down have not been hired. We had last month over 300 unfilled special education positions alone and I personally know of some CPS special education teachers who were unemployed after being cut in the shutdown of schools. In particular younger principals in many cases seem reluctant to hire new staff with a greater pedagogical knowledge base than their own. In other cases principals question the paper ratings of these laid off teachers, based on supposition in some cases or the history of the teacher's prior school.

This is now a particularly big problem because of the fact that last year according to the Chicago Principals & Administrators Association 92 principals and 50 assistant principals retired. The members of the CTU believe CPS is systematically discriminating in particular against older senior teachers who have been cut due to school closings. Until CPS proves to the membership of the CTU that principals are hiring based on a even playing field this issue will not easily be resolved. Until CPS agrees to create serious and enforceable recall rules for teachers who are cut due to school closings, be that the best thing for students in certain situations or not, this issue is likely not to be solved. It is a credit to the younger CPS teachers that they are standing with their older colleagues in relation to this issue. I would also add that I am impressed with the TFAers who are supporting the strike and walking the line in many if not most cases just like all other teachers.

Lastly, President Vitale's derisive remarks about striking teachers having fun while children are not being educated mistakes what is taking place. Teachers are being transformed, they are seeing the union not as something they just pay to belong to, but as something they own. There is a joy in that process and it is part truly fun. Being inherently somewhat skeptical by nature I never thought I would live to see this happen in relation to the CTU or a teachers union in general. I now do see that it has happened.
Rod Estvan

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Rod Estvan

every time I read rod's comments, i think "wow what a well thought out, sensible comment" and when i get to the end i see rod's name and think "oh duh, its rod again"

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

What to read to learn more?

Do you have any suggestions for further reading? I was a part of the Danielson pilot in CPS for a few years, and I appreciated the extra feedback it gave me, but I'd love to read what you're talking about.

I also saw Cheatham at the Common Core thing. She said she hadn't trained on the observation system yet. The other leader was Carol Caref from CTU, who also hadn't trained. I agree that their lack of consensus was frustrating.

TW wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Evaluation by Test Scores

Using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers may seem logical. It may be popular. However, that does not mean it is smart policy. Here are some facts about using test scores to evaluate teachers:

1. The results are frequently very different from year to year and even class to class for the same teacher.
2. Two different tests for the same content area often produce very different results for the same teacher.
3. Teachers cannot use the results to modify instruction because the results are so varied and unpredictable.
4. There are many subjects that do not have standardized tests (art, music, world language, gym, etc.).
5. Evaluation based on test scores encourages a narrow, test prep focused curriculum.
6. The mathematics involved are too complex for most people to understand and trust- a report describing a system in Florida is 80 pages long!
7. None of the high-performing countries in education use test scores to evaluate teachers.
8. Tests only capture one narrow aspect of what teachers and students do in school.

The high-performing Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland chose to decline $12 million in federal Race to the Top money so it could continue using its highly successful system based on review and support from peers and mentors instead of using test scores.

Here are some groups and individuals that have spoken out publicly against the validity of using test scores to evaluate teachers:

-Robert Scott, Republican and former Texas commissioner of education
-A group of 38 professors in Georgia
-A group of 1,500 principals and 5,400 teachers, parents, professors, and citizens in New York
-National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment
-John Ewing, president of Math for America, non-profit that promotes math instruction in schools
-Henry Braun, Educational Testing Service (producers of the SAT, GRE, NAEP, PSAT, etc.)
-RAND Corporation
-CReATE, a group of more than 80 education researchers and professors from 16 Chicago-area universities


Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

What is posted above it NOT the whole article-please look it

up on Goolge and read the whole thing--it is worth the read.

northside wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago


I was glad they arent going to use it for tenured we just cant let them use new teachers as lambs to the slaughter...cheatem says she wasnt trained?? whatever! that's just code for doesnt understand it!! they all use words like "not trained" to cover up confusion in my opinion!!!

northside wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago
NBCT Guy wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Reach Evaluation

One issue I have with REACH is the labels for teachers has changed to create two negative ratings. The bottom two ratings used to be "unsatisfactory" and "satisfactory." Now the bottom two are "unsatisfactory" and "needs improvement." The one time satisfactory rating that implied a positive image is now a negative as "needs improvement." Danielson did use the term "basic". Although not exactly positive, it did not promote a negative connotation that "needs improvement" does. I hope CTU is aware of this.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Hope the Danielson Group is aware of this--CPS shoud be sued

They are basterdizing her research. Dr. Danielson, 25,000 Chicago teachers cannot be worng!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Watch WTTW Chicago Tonight

Watch WTTW Chicago Tonight (repeat) at 10:00 tonight! Great discussion by 4 aldermen. It is about 24 minutes into the program.

NBCT Guy wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago


It appears the rating "needs improvement" has changed to "developing." This was reported on WGN tonight.

Todd Pytel wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago


While I agree that the connotation of labels is significant, my understanding (from doing a 3-day Danielson training a couple years back) is that "Needs Improvement" is still fairly consistent with the design of the Framework. Level 2 is definitely *not* where a teacher should feel comfortable settling in. It's not "Satisfactory" in any sense of the term. If that happens to be different than the old evaluation system's labels, then so be it - they have entirely different designs.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Charter School Research

I wonder if you can point me to articles/research on the Charter School issue, particularly as it pertains to Chicago. Thanks!

Sarah wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

The Vogons are not Reform.

That is education policy in a nutshell - new ideas, new jargon, new forms to fill out in triplicate, without evidence of effectiveness.

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