Updated February 13, 2008–Chicago Public Schools is getting closer to changing how teachers are evaluated.

For the last three years, a joint district-Chicago Teachers Union committee has been working on revising teacher evaluations, long criticized as virtually useless. (See Catalyst, WebExtra July 2007.)

With input from teachers, principals, counselors and other educators, the committee has developed a rubric to guide principals’ observations of what teachers do in the classroom, and to give teachers a tool to improve their instruction.

The guidelines are based on the work of education consultant Charlotte Danielson. Danielson’s work measures the effectiveness of a teacher’s lessons, classroom management and instruction. (See Catalyst, December 2003.)

Currently, teachers are evaluated based on two classroom visits by the principal during the year. One educator notes that teachers are evaluated in superficial areas, such as how the classroom is laid out and whether bulletin boards are on display.

Under the new process, both principals and teachers will be armed with the new rubric, to be used as a guide when they meet before and after the classroom observation.

“The rubric says ‘This is what an effective teacher does in the classroom,'” says one committee member. “The days of a satisfactory, unsatisfactory, superior or excellent rating are gone. Teachers will either meet the standards or they won’t. However, they will be given a chance to improve what they do and get better.”

The tool is being tested through May at Dodge, Kilmer, Murray, Pershing West, Prussing, King College Prep High School and Foreman High School. In January, the district and the CTU held a training session on it. In May, principals and participating teachers will meet to talk about the initiative and how it worked at each school.

In the meantime, the committee still is working on how it will fold the new form into the overall teacher evaluation process. This fall, the district will pilot a new evaluation process in 60 schools.

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