Federal Grants, Rise of Charter Schools Expand Teacher Evaluations

BY Mike Fritz and Kelly Chen  February 4, 2013 at 3:16 PM EDT

A version of this report on Achievement First charter schools will air on PBS NewsHour Monday.

Determining exactly how and how often teachers should be evaluated on their job performance, a long-standing contentious issue, re-emerged front and center in 2009 when President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law.

The federal stimulus plan set aside more than $4 billion for states that invested in new ways to overhaul their education systems, including how best to evaluate teachers.

In addition, federal grants were also doled out to many privately run charter schools, which are not required to operate under the same laws that govern public schools.

The NewsHour’s American Graduate team recently traveled to Bridgeport, Conn., to profile one such charter school, Achievement First Bridgeport Academy Middle School, which is part of a network of 22 public charters along the East Coast.

At Achievement First schools, teachers expect regular classroom observations, coaching sessions and constant feedback on the quality of their instruction.

Their review breaks down teaching into ten essentials, including: setting high standards for student achievement, the quality and execution of lesson plans and classroom culture. You can find the full Achievement First teacher observation rubric here on how it evaluates its teachers.

Charter schools have struggled to retain teachers in recent years, according to a study by Vanderbilt University, which states that “the odds of a charter school teacher moving to another school were 76 percent greater” than a teacher at a traditional public school.

Hoping to reverse that trend, Achievement First is also developing a model for teacher career development called “Teacher Career Pathway” that aims to encourage teachers to stay in the classroom rather than pursue administrative jobs with higher salaries.

The model begins at the “intern” level, which the organization describes as a stage in which one is “developing the skills to become a teacher,” and concludes at the “master teacher” level or an “exceptional contributor with exemplary student achievement.”

Achievement First says reaching the fifth and final stage would bring a significant pay increase, but exact compensation figures have not been released.

Despite mixed academic results in comparison to their traditional counterparts, the popularity of charter schools has soared in recent years. Roughly two million students now attend more than 5,000 charter schools across the U.S.

Explore NewsHour’s glossary of terms and rubrics used when evaluating teacher evaluations below:


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American Graduate is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America find solutions to the dropout crisis.