A+ Schools, an education advocacy group, has evaluated the new teacher evaluation system in Pittsburgh Public Schools and concluded it can be used to improve teaching.
In a web-based news conference today, Amy Scott, director of research and data analysis at A+ Schools, noted that the quality of teaching is the school-controlled factor that makes the most difference in children’s academic success.
She said some teachers in Pittsburgh already are doing well enough that the racial achievement gap could be reduced for students who have such strong teachers.
“We hope this system continues to improve so that more students have great teachers,” she said.
According to research by Mathematica Policy Research Inc., a student taught by a Pittsburgh teacher who receives the top rating known as distinguished has 7.2 more months of learning growth in a year than a student taught by those rated failing.
The new evaluation system, which takes effect this coming school year, is based primarily on classroom observation, the amount of growth a student achieves with a teacher as measured by tests, student surveys and building-level data.
The district recently told teachers and their principals what their ratings would have been had the system been in effect in 2012-13. Under the system used in 2012-13, about 3 percent were rated unsatisfactory. The rest were rated satisfactory.
In a dry run of the new system, the results showed 85 percent of classroom teachers were performing proficient or above, including 15.3 percent who were distinguished. There were 5.3 percent in “needs improvement” and 9.3 percent in “failing.”
Under state law, all school districts must change their evaluation system in 2013-14 from one that relies only on classroom observation to one that is based on half classroom observation and half student outcomes.
The information Pittsburgh uses for student outcomes and the weight each is given varies from the requirements for the rest of the state. The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers contends the district’s standards appear to be tougher than those in other districts.