UPDATE: Here is the most current EDUCATEAlabama document, including all standards and accompanying rubric. There were changes to the numbering of the indicators, and slight changes to wording.
Now is the time that many of Alabama’s children’s teachers are getting notices that they will not be rehired for the next school year. As such, it might be a good time to talk about how teachers are evaluated in Alabama.
Rather than go through the history of how teachers used to be evaluated versus how they are evaluated now, I will focus simply on how Alabama’s teachers are now evaluated. Much has changed about teacher evaluations in the past few years.
Why Should the School Community Care About How Teachers Are Evaluated?
Because that which gets measured, gets done (a quote often attributed to Peter Drucker, Management Guru). Or in the case of teachers, what teachers are evaluated on gets done.
If you ask parents and guardians of children in Alabama’s schools “what should teachers be doing in the classroom?”, you will get a different answer for each person you ask. EDUCATEAlabama, the process by which teachers are evaluated in Alabama, clearly answers the question of what Alabama’s teachers should be doing in the classroom. It is THE process for evaluating teachers in our classrooms.
The EDUCATEAlabama process has been evolving and changing since it was introduced in 2009. Information readily available is a bit confusing because of the evolution of the process. The forms shared with you in this post are no longer used because the entire process is online. However, the online process was developed from the forms, and because we don’t have access to the online system, the forms are presented to help you understand the process. Additionally, local school districts have now been given the option to develop their own local evaluations, based on the EDUCATEAlabama standards. Therefore, a local district’s process might vary a bit, but the basic components must be followed.
Teachers are pulled in many directions in the course of a school day, a school week, and certainly a school year. So to whom are teachers accountable? Students? Parents? Boards of education? Principals? The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE)? Principles of management teach us that an employee is accountable to whomever completes their evaluation and accountable for whatever their evaluation measures. So it follows that teachers are held accountable for whatever is being measured in their evaluations.
It is worth your time to understand on which tasks and processes teachers are evaluated in order to understand what teachers “should” be doing in our classrooms. You are then better able to align your expectations with what teachers’ bosses expect of them.
For example, if you expect teachers to teach character education as a lesson across all curricular areas, but you find out they aren’t doing that, you need to look at their evaluation to see if “teaching character education across the curricular areas” is actually something on which they’re being evaluated. If it’s not, then your expectation of a teacher actually doing that is out of line.
And THAT is why the Alabama school community needs to know on what tasks and processes teachers are evaluated.
Quick Facts [2010-2011] About Alabama’s Teachers
Teachers employed in Alabama’s public schools: 47,573
Teachers paid using Foundation Program (state) funds: 43,150
[Source: Alabama Report Card 2010-2011]
The other 4,423 teachers are paid either with federal or local funds.
# National Board Certified Teachers teaching in Alabama’s schools: 2,133
# Students in Alabama’s K-12 public schools: 744,696
State Salary Schedule for Teachers for the 2011-2012 school year
Salary for first-year teacher with bachelor’s or no degree: $36,144
Salary for teacher with > 27 years experience with bachelor’s or no degree: $45,997
Those numbers are a state-mandated minimum salary. Many districts pay higher salaries to teachers in order to attract and retain teachers. Check out Hoover City‘s and Shelby County‘s salary schedules for comparison.
Standards for Evaluation
The Alabama Quality Teacher Standards (AQTS) were used to create the evaluation system for teachers in Alabama. The standards are pieces of the Alabama Continuum for Teacher Development (the “Continuum”).
According to the guiding document, “the Continuum articulates a shared vision and common language of teaching excellence to guide an individual’s career-long development within an environment of collegial support. It is a tool for guiding and supporting teachers in the use of reflection, self-assessment, and goal setting for professional learning and growth. Specifically, the Continuum is intended to support meaningful reflective conversations among teachers, mentors, coaches, and administrators. It supports teachers in setting professional goals and pursuing professional development to reach those goals. It also serves as a focus for teacher preparation institutions and pre-service candidates.”
The continuum is not a part of the evaluation, but rather a guiding document used to develop the evaluation.
As previously mentioned EDUCATEAlabama is the evaluation process used for Alabama’s teachers. The program’s history can be found here. Here is the ALSDE’s explanation of EDUCATEAlabama when it was first introduced in 2009.
Non-tenured teachers were first evaluated under EDUCATEAlabama in 2009. Tenured teachers were first evaluated under the new standards beginning in August of 2011.
The core standards that are measured are:
- Standard 1: Content Knowledge
- Standard 2: Teaching and Learning
- Standard 3: Literacy
- Standard 4: Diversity
- Standard 5: Professionalism
These standards are further broken down into “indicators” and accompanied by rubrics (a range of performance expectations) to measure whether the teacher is pre-service and beginning, emerging, applying, integrating or innovating in each practice. There are a total of 39 indicators that are a part of these five standards.
The 39 Indicators
These indicators are at the heart of what is expected of teachers in Alabama’s classrooms. Here is the most current document, including all standards and accompanying rubric (thank you to my teacher friend for providing this document to share).
Understanding these indicators, their definitions and how teachers use them in their classrooms will help our school community better align our expectations (what we think teachers should do) with reality (what teachers are supposed to do).
Here are the 39 indicators. When you read them, read them as a job description. But understand that it’s not a “yes” or “no” check-box, it’s a range of activities/evidence that the teacher exhibits in his/her classroom and with his/her peers. You can Google any edu-speak terms that you don’t understand:
- 1.1 Demonstrates deep knowledge of subject-matter content and an ability to organize related facts, concepts, and skills
- 1.2 Activates learners’ prior knowledge, experience, and interests and uses this information to plan content and to help individual students attain learning goals
- 1.3 Connects curriculum to other content areas and real-life settings to promote retention and relevance
- 1.4 Designs instructional activities based on state content standards
- 1.5 Provides instructional accommodations, modifications, and adaptations to meet the needs of each individual learner
- 2.1 Designs a classroom organization and management system built upon sound, age-appropriate expectations and research-based strategies for promoting positive behavior
- 2.2 Creates a climate that promotes fairness and respect
- 2.3 Creates a safe, orderly, and stimulating learning environment that engages and motivates learners
- 2.4 Develops challenging, standards-based academic goals for each learner using knowledge of cognitive, social, and emotional development
- 2.5 Engages learners in developing and monitoring goals for their own learning and behavior
- 2.6 Designs coherent lessons that integrate a variety of appropriate and effective instructional strategies
- 2.7 Creates learning activities that optimize each individual’s growth and achievement within a supportive environment
- 2.8 Uses formative assessments to provide specific and timely feedback which will assist learners in meeting learning targets and to adjust instruction.
- 2.9 Uses summative assessments to measure learner attainment of specified learning targets.
- 2.10 Maintains evidence and records of learning performance to communicate progress
- 2.11 Analyzes and uses disaggregated standardized assessment data to inform planning for individual learners and classes
- 3.1 Demonstrates standard oral and written communications and uses appropriate communication strategies
- 3.2 Fosters and responds to effective verbal and nonverbal communications during instruction
- 3.3 Uses age-appropriate instructional strategies to improve learners’ skills in critical literacy components
- 3.4 Integrates narrative and expository reading strategies across the curriculum
- 3.5 Solves mathematical problems across subject areas using a variety of strategies to verify and interpret results and to draw conclusions
- 3.6 Communicates mathematical concepts, processes, and symbols within the content taught
- 3.7 Identifies and integrates available emerging technology into the teaching of all content areas
- 3.8 Facilitates learners’ individual and collaborative use of technology and evaluates their technological proficiency
- 4.1 Develops culturally responsive curriculum and instruction in response to differences in individual experiences, cultural, ethnic, gender, and linguistic diversity; and socioeconomic status
- 4.2 Communicates in ways that demonstrate sensitivity to diversity and that acknowledge and respond to various cultural, ethnic and social modes of communication and participation
- 4.3 Demonstrates and applies to own practice an understanding of how personal and cultural biases can affect teaching and learning
- 4.4 Supports learners to accelerate language acquisition by utilizing their native language and linguistic background
- 4.5 Guides second language acquisition and utilizes English Language Proficiency strategies to support learning
- 4.6 Differentiates between learner difficulties related to cognitive or skill development and those related to language learning.
- 4.7 Understands and recognizes the characteristics of exceptionality in learning, including the range of physical and mental disabilities, social and emotional disorders, giftedness, dyslexia, and attention deficit disorder, in order to assist in appropriate identification and intervention
- 4.8 Facilitates inclusive learning environments that support and address the needs of learners with learning differences and disabilities
- 4.9 Helps students assess their own learning styles and build upon identified strengths
- 4.10 Designs learning experiences that engage learning styles and multiple intelligences
- 5.1 Collaborates with stakeholders to facilitate student learning and well-being
- 5.2 Engages in ongoing professional learning to move practice forward
- 5.3 Participates as a teacher leader and professional learning community member to advance school improvement initiatives
- 5.4 Promotes professional ethics and integrity
- 5.5 Complies with local, state, and Federal regulations and policies
Process for Evaluation
Because the process continues to evolve, there are many documents floating around the internet that are not current. The most current document found is the EA User Guide 2011-2012. Hoover City Schools presented a WebEx presentation that is available at this link. The WebEx presentation is an in-depth look at how the online process works. It is a 35-minute video, but if you want a better understanding of the online process, the video is very helpful. Other WebEx presentations are available on the current EDUCATEAlabama web site.
Non-tenured teachers are evaluated annually until they obtain tenure. Tenure is obtained after the third consecutive year of employment by a school district.
Tenured teachers are evaluated on a three-year cycle. This means the EDUCATEAlabama formal evaluation will be conducted, then the teacher’s Professional Learning Plan (PLP) will be used by the teacher to work on until the formal evaluation is conducted again in the fourth year. The cycle is repeated as long as the teacher is employed.
The entire evaluation process is now conducted online, so no current forms exist. All forms linked to are from the prior EDUCATEAlabama site.
The current process looks like this:
Self-Assessment – Teachers are asked to evaluate themselves at the beginning of each and every school year, regardless of whether they are in a multi-year cycle. This is a sample teacher self-assessment. [Remember, the whole process is online, and this is an old form.] The self-assessment is an opportunity to teachers to self-reflect on their classroom practices and determine in which areas they would like to improve their teaching skills. Here are Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the self-assessment taken from the EDUCATEAlabama web site.
Results of the 2011 self-assessments across the state can be found at this link. No identifying information is given, only aggregated results indicating which levels teachers assessed themselves to be.
Dialogue – Dialogue then begins between the teacher and evaluator using the self-assessment to explore areas in which a teacher would like to improve. This dialogue allows for discussion of the PLP goals and feedback from the evaluator. There is no form as it happens in real time, through the online process. The dialogue must happen each year after the self-assessment is completed. Here are FAQs about the Dialogue taken from the EDUCATEAlabama web site.
Professional Learning Plan (PLP) – Here is an example of the previous form utilized during the PLP process. The PLP is designed to plan for a teacher to further develop in an action area identified in the self-assessment. The teacher and the evaluator review the PLP to ensure expectations are aligned. Two to five indicators are identified for further development.
The PLP must be completely rewritten annually even if a teacher is on a multi-year evaluation cycle. Tenured teachers who are on a multi-year cycle are expected to create annual goals and to meet with their evaluator each year to discuss progress on those goals, and set new ones where appropriate, even though a full evaluation will not be conducted that year.
The PLP is the heart of the process, as it allows teachers to plan their own growth and holds them accountable for that growth.
Here are FAQs about the PLP taken from the EDUCATEAlabama web site.
Supporting Evidence – Teachers and their evaluators enter supporting evidence throughout the year to continue the dialogue about the PLP and areas of improvement. Supporting evidence includes comments from the observations, notes on instructional practices, student data, and roles and responsibilities. Here are FAQs about Supporting Evidence taken from the EDUCATEAlabama web site.
Observation – Observations are unannounced and the results of the observation are considered Supporting Evidence. Each and every teacher is to be observed twice during the school year. There should be no pre-observation conferences.
Timeline for Evaluation
Beginning – Academic Year
- A self-assessment is completed by the teacher using the teaching standards (AQTS) and the Continuum .
- Initial dialogue between the educator and the instructional leader discussing the completed self-assessment.
- A PLP is completed, based on the self-assessment and initial dialogue.
- Two unannounced observations and subsequent dialogues based on PLP content.
- Professional study supporting the PLP content is obtained.
- Supporting evidence is entered throughout the academic year.
- Summarize the PLP for the year and close out the evaluation online.
When the Evaluation Is Completed
EDUCATEAlabama is an ongoing process, so it’s not exactly accurate to say it’s “completed”. The PLP is a living document that teachers must use to continue improving along the Continuum. Self-assessments, dialogue, and PLPs are updated every year.
Teachers do not obtain raises based on their evaluations. Teachers are given “step” raises based on their years of service.
While these evaluations certainly could be used to gather evidence of ineffective teaching, that is not the focus of this discussion.
Teacher Response to EDUCATEAlabama
Click here to view survey responses from teachers and other professionals who have been evaluated with EDUCATEAlabama. The ALSDE is to be commended for sharing these results with the public. As you can see when you view the results, particularly the open-ended question asking for how to improve EDUCATEAlabama, teachers were honest and candid.
No evaluation system will please everyone. And it looks like evaluations may change again in the future in looking at the state’s proposed overhaul to the accountability and assessment system. That overhaul includes adding “multiple measures of student growth and achievement” to the teacher evaluation system.
What You Can Do With This Information—Now That You Know
Now that you know on what teachers are evaluated, you should have a better idea of why teachers do the things they do and how they’re supposed to be doing those things.
It is my hope that giving you an inside look into what is expected of our teachers will help you form realistic expectations of what it is teachers are supposed to do. Realistic expectations set the stage for respect. Mutual respect is necessary for teachers and families to build real relationships that support our children in their education journey.