The Helmsley Charitable Trust recently launched “Teaching the Core,” a field study to champion excellence in education. Following a district known for its best practices and excellence in education, the study hopes to create training videos for teachers, shape teacher assessment protocol and provide examples of excellent teaching. Indian Prairie School District 204 in Illinois was selected to take part in the study based on their reputation for academic excellence.
“Teaching the Core” aims to study how a widely used teacher-evaluation tool called Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching aligns with expectations of teaching the common core education standards. The standards are being implemented in 45 states. Many states, including Illinois, are also tying teacher evaluations to student achievement. By the 2016 school year, Illinois teachers will be assessed on student performance.
The study also seeks to pull together free resources, including videos of District 204 teachers, for all teachers as they work to implement the standards in their classrooms.
By taking part in the project, District 204 will help refine teacher-assessment standards, have access to high-quality professional development from education experts and receive national recognition.
“This will take us to a level that most districts just don’t have access to,” Superintendent Kathy Birkett said.
Last month, Charlotte Danielson met with District 204 teachers, principals and other officials to talk about the project, which will include three other school districts — in New York City, Reno, Nev., and Bethel, Conn.
“I’m a little awe-struck,” said Kathy Duncan, District 204’s chief academic officer. “It’s like meeting celebrities.”
Also in attendance were project researchers and members of Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit organization founded by some of the common-core standards’ authors.
Danielson is famous for a research-based tool she created to assess teacher performance using a rubric that addresses four areas: planning and preparation, the classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. District 204 uses the tool. Under the field study, the district also will use a second assessment created by Student Achievement Partners to support teachers as they begin teaching the common-core standards.
The goal is to see how Danielson’s assessments should be tweaked by paying attention to conversations between teachers and those assessing their work.
“This is an opportunity for all of us to learn from your experiences,” Danielson told District 204’s educators.
Feedback also is being sought from teachers and educators outside of those conversations. Researchers also will be looking for ways to streamline evaluations.
At the same time, teachers who volunteer will be recorded at work for a free video library available online from Student Achievement Partners. The project also hopes to track several teachers as they implement common-core standards, recording the evolution of how they teach and think about teaching.
Data will be collected from August through March, with findings published by the end of 2014. District officials say the project can be folded into the district’s current evaluation system without greatly increasing teachers’ workload.
“This really is designed to help push our classes forward, to deepen our knowledge as observers and as teachers, and provide kind of a national perspective on how we help teachers become better teachers with the common core,” Duncan said. “Our goal really is to make this authentic, useful and valuable.”
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