School officials explore meaning of survey

TELL information offers good news, bad news


The Douglas County School District crunched some of the numbers on the 2015 state teachers' survey, concluding there's plenty of encouraging news, but some areas that merit further study.

The Teaching, Empowering, Leading & Learning, or TELL, survey is given every two years by the New Teacher Center.

The questions to which Douglas County teachers gave the most negative response revolved around their evaluations. DCSD implemented a new, much more detailed evaluation process in 2012.

About 70 percent of Douglas County teachers who responded don't think the process accurately identifies their effectiveness.

About 60 percent don't think the teacher evaluation process improves teachers' instructional strategies.

The evaluations scored more favorably on the survey in 2013 and 2011. For instance, in 2015, about 44 percent don't think the evaluations are fair; in 2011, 13 percent felt they were unfair.

Concerns about evaluations are reflected by teachers statewide, but in higher numbers in the Douglas County School District.

Matt Reynolds, the district's system performance officer, said implementation of the new evaluation system makes it difficult to draw conclusions between 2011 and 2015.

“From my standpoint as a data person, I'd like to see more data,” he said.

Low marks on the evaluations aside, Douglas County teachers gave positive responses to most questions, including community support, their effectiveness as leaders, high professional standards to which they're held, and the sense that their individual schools are good places to work and learn.

Board member Meghann Silverthorn pointed out that teachers rate instructional practices high. Those include the ability to make instructional decisions and encouragement to try new things to improve instruction. Most also said the curriculum meets the students' needs.

“Statewide, the evaluation process is a conversation,” Silverthorn said. “People don't necessarily believe it's effective. When you delve into the rest of it, people feel good about the actual instructional practices, things they're doing within the buildings. So what steps might the district consider taking in terms of tying that together?”

Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen said the current evaluations are dramatically different from those of the past.

“It's a lot more time-consuming and rigorous than the instrument of the past. There's no question about that,” she said. “It's a lot more work, frankly, to have high-quality evaluation and feedback systems. I think, statewide, teachers are feeling it's been a burden.

“We understand this is a learning curve. I think we're really starting to get some momentum and understanding on it now we maybe didn't have initially. We think this is our core function — to coach and support great teachers, so … we're dedicated to doing it well (and) continuously improving it.”

Reynolds said the district is monitoring the process and teachers' response.

“We have different opportunities to gather information and evidence; this is just one piece of the puzzle,” he said.


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