Oklahoma joins a small number of states who turned their backs on Value-Added teacher evaluation when Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) loosened the student growth requirement for teacher evaluations. Oklahoma had a law in place that was to be implemented, incorporating student test scores as a component of teacher evaluation. Through the work of school districts and legislators, the law, HB 2957, shows the history of teacher evaluation in the state, crossing out old language requiring Value-Added measures as a component of evaluation, and underlining new language adding a personalized professional development requirement under the control of the individual educator. Language requiring student growth was replace with language requiring districts to require ‘individualized programs of professional development’ for all educators, including administrators. Several districts in the state already had a similar program in place, and educators had been working with the model.
When fully implemented in 2018-19, all educators will be required to choose a Professional Learning Focus (PLF) ‘identified through the qualitative component of Teacher and Leader Effectiveness,’ the state observation model. The PLF identified by the educator will ‘correlate…with increased student achievement,’ and may extend over several school years or have a one-year focus. Educators meet with evaluators and discuss the plan, and the kinds of support they will need from their district. Evaluators have input into the choice of PLF and are required to monitor educators’ progress. This process is designed to ‘promote…reflection and professional growth for teachers and leaders.’
The Oklahoma State Department of Education has designed reflection worksheets for educators to use, but suggests each district individualize their forms to fit their requirements.
This new law does not exclude a district’s use of student growth on standardized tests, but such evaluation is optional, and will be at the district’s own expense.
Research is clear that the classroom teacher is an important in-school variable in student learning, so Oklahoma’s move is acknowledging the fact that educators, especially classroom teachers, should have control over their own professional learning and growth. The expectation is that student achievement will increase as teachers craft their own learning experiences, modeling life-long learning.
Concerns among Oklahoma educators, as always, revolve around time and resources. This process is designed to be completed, if an educator chooses, within contract time, with ‘PD on your plan” ideas, online resources, and other creative uses of time. The state is looking into creating a clearing house of resources for teachers whose districts do not have them, and individual educators are not expected to spend their own money on professional development. These concerns will be monitored and addressed as PLF becomes the law of the land.
For more information on Professional Learning Focus, please see this presentation.