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CPS teachers, principals say evaluation system OK but find process stressful

Public school teachers and principals still generally like and approve of the teacher evaluation system that emerged from the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike, but they find the process stressful and over-reliant on standardized test scores, a new research brief from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research indicates.

The issue likely will emerge during the next round of negotiations for the contract set to expire at the end of June, especially given how many teachers believe the tests aren’t a good measure of what their students have learned.

“There’s still a lot of positivity,” said Jennie Jiang, a research analyst at the Consortium and co-author of the report, which was based on the My Voice Teacher surveys from more than 19,000 teachers and nearly 800 principals and assistant principals.

About two-thirds of teachers and 89 percent of principals agreed or strongly agreed that REACH — Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago’s Students — will lead to better instruction and improved student outcomes. And about 62 percent of teachers said they were satisfied with how their schools conducted evaluations, down from more than 70 percent the year before.

But nearly 60 percent of teachers and 45 percent of administrators believed the process takes more effort than the results are worth.

Jiang speculated the addition of tenured teachers last year to those evaluated could have tempered enthusiasm. Teachers also knew their scores before they were questioned; that wasn’t the case the first year, she said.

Jiang has presented the results to CPS and the CTU, which questions how the process might be streamlined to reduce stress.

Clarice Berry, president of the Chicago Teachers and Adminstrators Association, said her members still like what the process accomplishes.

“My feedback is about the lack of time and the amount of time it takes to fully implement it correctly. My principals are feeling a lot of pressure,” she said. “If you have a large school, it’s a daunting task.”

She said the burden should be lessened a bit this year since teachers with the top two ratings only need to be evaluated every two years, freeing up principals to focus on teachers who really need help.

Teacher evaluations were a sticking point leading up to and extending the seven-day Chicago teachers’ strike in 2012.

The Chicago Teachers Union could not be reached for comment.

CPS chief of educator effectiveness Paulette Poncelet said the evaluation system is consistent with the CTU contract, which requires more observations than the state does. The observations are thorough and time-consuming, she said. A change in software last year might also have slowed down the process.

She would not speculate about the future contract other than to say that the district “will have a chance to reconsider that.”

Poncelet called the results “very encouraging.”

“The numbers, the percentages that agree and strongly agree, and the fairness of the evaluators — and the appreciation for the feedback and the positive aspect of the feedback — it’s great,” Poncelet said.

“Sometimes you don’t know what to expect.”