Like most other states, Illinois has implemented legislation to reform education. These new laws affect the way that teachers and administrators are evaluated.
Illinois law now requires that teachers and administrators be evaluated on their 1) professional practice, and 2) student growth. The new instruments change the focus of evaluation from the practitioner to the participants. For example, an administrator evaluating a teacher would have previously scripted the lesson from beginning to end, focusing on the teacher’s words and actions. Now, the evaluator is trained to focus on the engagement of the students: both the level and type of engagement. Similarly, the superintendent evaluating a principal is expected to observe the engagement of the teachers in his/her building – whether they are actively participating in efforts to solve problems, and the steps they take to make changes when evidence suggests that a student or students are not learning.
The new system builds on this “participant-focus” by adding student growth as a component of the evaluation. Just as two sports teams with different coaches and different philosophies can both be successful, effective teachers may not teach in the same way. The new evaluation system respects the freedom of the teacher to make informed choices and to play to his/her strengths, but insists that the quality of his/her teaching be judged on the extent to which students are learning.
Using measures of student growth as tools, the new system should help teachers and administrators improve on their professional practice. For those who embrace this change, the new system offers a real opportunity to improve learning, not because everything in education needs to be reformed, but because the focus is right.