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Harvard Report Notes Teacher Support

A report by Harvard University researchers on teacher evaluation systems in California describes innovative practices in the Long Beach Unified School District.

The report titled “Can Teacher Evaluation Programs Improve Teaching?” by Virginia Lovison and Eric. S. Taylor of Harvard University is part of the “Getting Down to Facts II” series of research projects focused on a wide array of California education issues.

Long Beach was highlighted in the latest report for connecting individual teacher evaluation results with resources and strategies for improvement using the school district’s online myPD system for professional development.

“First, teachers decide which teaching practice(s) will be the focus of their improvement work.  Specifically, teachers select practices from the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP).  The software aids this decision by combining and analyzing information about the teachers’ current performance, including the teachers’ own self assessments, student achievement data, evaluation results and other sources,” the report states.  “Second, the software suggests specific resources to the teacher, including traditional face-to-face professional development courses, videos of other Long Beach teachers teaching, self-paced online courses, communities of teachers focused on the same practices, and other resources.”

One advantage of Long Beach’s approach is that it helps teachers make connections between their evaluation results and the available professional development resources.

“The extent to which myPD is successful in its goals for improving teaching effectiveness will be borne out over time,” the report continues, “but the thoughtful design is promising.”

In a related article on the EdSource website (edsource.org), which covers statewide education issues, writer Diana Lambert notes that Long Beach’s online support system for teachers complements the evaluation process but is not required.

“It’s more like being assigned a personal trainer,” LBUSD Program Administrator Nader Twal told EdSource.  “You have goals.  You set those goals.  You have someone join you in the journey and coaching you along the way.  It’s moving from compliance to continual improvement.”  Twal works in LBUSD’s Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development and has helped to implement myPD from the outset.

The “Getting Down to Facts II” series encompasses 36 studies by California and national researchers.  It examines governing, funding and staffing policies and practices in early education and California’s public schools.  Stanford University and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) coordinated the effort.  Seven foundations funded the research.