Collaboration between teachers and administrators is key to shaping educator evaluation and professional development programs to improve teaching and learning and help all students succeed.
Most districts’ Professional Development and Evaluation Committees (PDECs) are collaborating and working well, while others could use additional support. That’s according to survey data reviewed by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) at a meeting this week.
PEAC reviewed surveys of PDECs by the state Department of Education as well as surveys CEA and AFT-Connecticut conducted of members who sit on PDECs.
The state Department of Education survey was sent out to PDECs in every school district and received responses from 81 school districts and five charter schools. Findings included that:
- Approximately 90 percent of teachers and administrators on PDECs said that their PDEC does work collaboratively and feel that their input is heard and respected by other PDEC members.
- 80 percent of teachers and 84 percent of administrators thought that their PDEC operates effectively.
- 74 percent of teachers and 90 percent of administrators said that their PDEC always or most of the time reaches mutual agreement with the local board of education.
- 69 percent of teachers and 76 percent of administrators thought that the Connecticut guidelines for educator evaluation are clear and assist the PDEC to complete its charge.
Based on the survey findings and teachers’ comments, CEA and AFT developed a set of best practice recommendations that they presented to PEAC.
“Some PDECs run very well, and based on how they operate and what our survey found are characteristics of PDECs that function well, we developed these recommendations,” CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said.
“I don’t think anyone here can mandate effectiveness,” Waxenberg added. “We have to look for ways to have a set of standards. Hopefully if we can provide a template of how things should happen, leadership at the local level will choose to adopt the best practices.”
Some of the CEA and AFT recommendations for PDECs include having one teacher and one administrator as co-chairs, meeting at least quarterly, and making sure meeting minutes are disseminated to all educators in the district.
Waxenberg said that teachers frequently don’t know what goes on with their district’s PDEC or who serves on it. He said that there needs to be communication between PDECs and educators and that PDEC members should seek suggestions from teachers.
Meriden Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Miguel Cardona said he hopes PEAC can finalize the PDEC best practices over the summer so that they’re available for PDECs for the fall. “It’s really important that we close the gap between what we’re doing here on PEAC and what’s happening at the local level,” he said.
Unions offer vital support to PDECs
PDECs are responsible for educator evaluation and professional learning, however during a panel presentation to PEAC, EDUCATION CONNECTION Professional Development Specialist Susan Domanico said that PDECs tend to focus on one hat or the other. “The next level is to combine the two,” she said.
CEA Teacher Development Specialist Kate Field said she often sees a misalignment between teacher evaluation and professional development. She cautions that some PDECs may not be as functional as the survey data suggests. Some PDECs may appear to be working well until a problem arises, and then sometimes deeper issues rise to the surface.
She and Jennifer Benevento, professional issues and development coordinator for AFT-Connecticut, serve on the state’s Professional Learning Advisory Committee (PLAC) and regularly assist PDECS. “We’re kind of like United Nations peacekeepers. When there’s a problem in a PDEC, we’re there,” Field said.
In addition to working with PDECs directly, PLAC is also developing tools and resources that will be available to PDECs online whenever they need them.
“We’re putting together resources and tools designed to help PDECs that are struggling, particularly with implementing Connecticut’s new Professional Learning Standards,” Field said.
The group is working to create podcasts on each of the eight professional learning standards, which will be posted to the state Department of Education website this fall.
Field said that, though PDECs may initially see the professional learning standards as yet one more item on a to do list, she thinks that, if implemented correctly, they have the potential to positively shape teachers’ professional learning.
“The professional learning standards offer an opportunity to give teachers more autonomy over their own professional learning—moving from the old, top-down style of professional development to a new model that really empowers teachers and ultimately benefits the students that the teachers serve,” said Field.
Field and CEA Educational Issues Specialist Michele Ridolfi O’Neill are available to provide personalized assistance, answer questions, and help refine or update locals’ teacher evaluation and professional development plans. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Click here for teacher evaluation resources from CEA.