PPS Superintendent Linda Lane (Courier File Photo)
This week, the Pittsburgh Public School District announced that 85 percent of their teachers demonstrated effective performance in the 2012-2013 school year, according to data from individualized Educator Effectiveness Reports. The reports are part of the district’s ongoing Empowering Effective Teachers Plan aimed at putting an effective teacher in front of every student.
“Many factors go into student achievement, but we know that teachers matter most to student learning,” said PPS Superintendent Linda Lane in an Aug. 6 press release announcing the results. “For us to help teachers improve, we have to know how to support them. We’re encouraging teachers to use the reports to shape their professional development goals, and we’re committed to giving teachers the feedback and support they need to improve.”
The reports are designed to prepare local teachers for the new Act 82 state law for the 2013-14 school year, requiring evaluations to be based 50 percent on teacher observation and 50 percent on student outcomes. The PPS evaluation process used in the recently released report already includes student feedback, student growth, and observation by a principal or a peer.
“Teachers have told us time and again that the information they received in the past as part of their evaluations did not help them grow as professionals,” Lane said. “We’ve worked hard alongside teachers and union leaders to design a professional growth and evaluation system that works for our schools and gives our teachers the support they deserve. Finally, teachers now have a clearer picture of their performance.”
According to the district’s reports, 9.3 percent of teachers demonstrated performance that earned “failing” ratings. Another 5.3 percent of teachers earned “needs improvement” ratings.
The results of the report comes a week after religious leaders from the national organization Shepherding the Next Generation gathered in Pittsburgh on July 31 to release their own report on teacher effectiveness.
“PPS have already started a teacher effectiveness program. Our goal is to encourage them to continue what they started,” said Thomas Pearce, national director of Shepherding the Next Generation. “A lot of the time people pay lip service with these initiatives. We’re confident that they’re moving in the right direction, but we just wanted to be another voice of encouragement”
The organization’s report cited data from a long-term study demonstrating that students taught by effective teachers for three years, scored in the top 10 percent of their classes, as opposed to similar students with ineffective teachers who scored in the bottom 40 percent. The report also referenced a study showing that students with a highly effective teacher can gain as much as a full year’s worth of academic growth, while students assigned to a weak instructor are more likely to fall behind.
“When a pastor comes in and says I believe this program is important and I don’t receive any benefit from it, we recognize that as legislators,” said Pierce, a former state representative. “We make sure everything we share with policy makers is research based. We’re not just talking from emotion. We know that teachers are the second most influential factor in a student’s life.”
Shepherding the Next Generation is made up of evangelical pastors and ministry leaders who are committed to speaking out on behalf of at-risk children. It was established by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a non-partisan, non-profit group of over 5,000 state attorneys general, sheriffs, prosecutors, police chiefs, and crime survivors.