Rethinking Teacher Evaluation in Chicago Lessons Learned from Classroom Observations, Principal-Teacher Conferences, and District Implementation, a report written by Lauren Sartain, Sara Ray Stoelinga, and Eric R. Brown for the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute, is a study of the progress made by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in 2008 to improve classroom teaching. The pilot, the Excellence in Teaching Pilot, is an effort to improve teacher evaluation.
This study was motivated by two factors. The first factor is that the teacher evaluation system has not been giving teachers a meaningful evaluation. The second factor is that the teacher evaluation process is not distinguishing between the best teachers, good teachers, and poor teachers.
Chicago Public Schools has utilized a traditional teacher evaluation system for over 30 years. Principals used a checklist to guide their observation. At the end of the year the teacher would receive a teaching evaluation rating.
The teacher evaluation system determined that 93% of the teachers were evaluated as being either Superior or Excellent. This was at the same time that 66% of the schools were determined to be failing. This difference suggested that the teacher evaluation process was not accurate.
The 2 year Excellence in Teaching Pilot included training and support for teachers and principals on providing evidence-based feedback on the strengths and weakness of classroom pedagogy. It also taught principals how to utilize the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching.
Throughout the country teacher evaluation systems are changing:


Traditional Evaluation


Evidence-Based Evaluation

Single time point for classroom observation
Multiple time points for classroom observation
Use of “checklist” tools (strength/weakness, yes/no)
Use of rubrics that define instructional improvement on a continuum
Single observer
Multiple observers
High performance ratings given to almost all of the teachers
Variation in performance ratings among teachers
Does not include student outcomes
Links teacher effectiveness in student performance

Components of Classroom Observations for Excellence in Teaching Pilot.
  1. Pre-observation conference (15 – 25 minutes)
  2. Classroom observation (a lesson, 30 – 60 minutes)
  3. Administrators match their classroom observation notes to the Framework rubric in order to choose a level of performance for each of 10 components (45 minutes)
  4. Post observation conference (20 to 30 minutes)
The Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching was developed in 1996. It has been adopted by the state of Illinois as the state’s default observation rubric. The Framework divides teaching into four domains: (1) Planning and Preparation (2) Classroom Environment (3) Instruction (4) Professional Responsibilities.
The report’s authors indicated that they believed that the findings of the report are the product of work done in a single city, the findings have connections to teachers throughout the states. Every state is dealing with their teacher evaluation process and looking for ways to utilize classroom observations into positive tools for classroom improvement.
The Excellence in Teaching Pilot had some positive outcomes:
  • The Excellence in Teaching Pilot observation tool is reliable and valid.
  • The tool helped bring about good conversations between principals and teachers.
  • Principals were engaged and excited about the conversations.
The tool also noted areas of concern:
  • Principals tend to boost their ratings of teachers to help preserve relationships.
  • Principals and teachers still need to find ways to translate the observations into improvements in the classroom. There is little precedent for this to happen.
The authors conclude this report with this observation: “The shift to evidence-based teacher evaluation similarly requires teachers to conceptualize their instructional practice as constantly evolving, open to scrutiny, and in need of tweaking and improvement. It challenges norms in the teaching profession of the privatized practice that is so common in schools.”

Source: Rethinking Teacher Evaluation in Chicago Lessons Learned from Classroom Observations, Principal-Teacher Conferences, and District Implementation

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