Unions Protesting New Teacher Evaluation System
Friday, December 21, 2012
Thousands of Rhode Island teachers have signed an online petition calling for the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) to delay the implementation of the state’s new teacher evaluation system.
According to a letter sent to Education Commissioner Deborah Gist from the National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) executive committee, teachers are concerned about the fairness, accuracy, and consistency of the model, which requires teachers to receive evaluations based on observations of practice, fulfillment of professional responsibilities, and evidence of student growth and achievement.
“Teachers are overwhelmed with a system that requires developing new curriculum while they are held responsible for an entirely different system,” said NEARI President Larry Purtill. “Careers could be made or destroyed based on a label that holds very little meaning.”
Purtill continued: “Teachers are required to write ‘SLOs’ (Student Learning Objectives) as part of their evaluation. Yet the expectations for these SLOs varies from district to district, school to school, and even among administrators. There is no uniformity or clear understanding. A teacher could be highly effective according to one district and not in another.”
In addition to the petition, the state’s teachers unions have launched a website to voice their frustration.
But Gist says the state does not intend to delay teacher evaluations moving forward. In a letter sent to superintendents across the state, Gist called a high-quality evaluation system “essential” to the work educators are doing.
“Last year, we agreed to delay full implementation of evaluations and opted instead for a year of ‘gradual implementation’ during the 2011-12 school year,” she wrote. “We do not intend to delay full implementation again. We do, however, intend to continue careful monitoring of the evaluation process throughout this year of full implementation, and we will continue to listen to teachers and school leaders as we work together to determine our best next steps. I have reached out to both Frank Flynn (RIFTHP) and Larry Purtill (NEA-RI) to schedule further meetings to discuss the concerns their members have expressed regarding evaluations. I am confident that we can work together to ensure that our educator evaluations are fair, accurate, and focused on improving teaching and learning in Rhode Island.”