Delaware Officials Encourage Principals to be Tough on Evaluations

The Delaware Department of Education has urged the schools principals to be tough on evaluations of teachers after officials raised concerns after only 1% of Delaware teachers were rated ineffective.

The education department reported that, during the first full year of the state’s evaluation system, only 1% of the state’s teachers were rated ineffective. According to state officials, it seems that school leaders aren’t making the tough evaluations needed to give honest feedback and eliminate low-performing teachers, writes Matthew Albright of The News Journal.

In Delaware, the new five-part DPAS II evaluation system was rolled out last year. Teachers can be rated exceeds expectations, satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Principals, who perform most of the evaluations, say that many teachers are still learning about a big, brand-new system and they were hesitant to give teachers low ratings.

“Going forward, we need to ensure that school leaders implement the system well, so that our overall results reflect the reality of what’s happening in our classrooms,” said Secretary of Education Mark Murphy. “When only one in five of our students is graduating high school ready for their next step, we still have a long way to go.”

Overall, more than half of teachers were marked exceeds expectations, and just under half were marked satisfactory.

Almost no teachers received low marks on the first four parts of the evaluation, which judge professional responsibilities and rely on things like classroom observations. However, more teachers are struggling on a fifth component, which sets goals for each individual student to grow their test scores and judges teachers based on how many students meet those goals.

Delaware’s federal Race to the Top program requires teacher evaluations to include student growth. When the state set goals for math and reading teachers whose students take the DCAS test, for example, a total of 17% of teachers earned unsatisfactory ratings, though most of them were within a range that allowed their bosses some leeway to upgrade them.

Critics say that component five, which ties teachers’ performance to student test scores, is not fair. They argue that many factors outside teachers’ control can affect those scores.

According to the figures, principals and other school leaders overwhelmingly used the flexibility the system allows them to give teachers the benefit of the doubt.

“I think people were very cautious throughout the state on this evaluation,” said Merv Daugherty, superintendent of the Red Clay school district and head of the school chiefs association. “This is the first year this was implemented, and there were a lot of technical points that had to be worked out. We were building the plane while we were in the air.”

Frederika Jenner, president of the Delaware State Education Association, said that they received many reports of technical glitches that complicated the evaluations. She asked the state to make sure that principals and teachers are getting more training on how to set goals, how to do more accurate and thorough observations and how to navigate the evaluation system.