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UConn Researchers Discuss Latest SEED Study Findings

Neag researchers

UConn Neag School of Education researchers Morgaen Donaldson (at left) and Casey Cobb shared the findings from the second round of their SEED study with PEAC yesterday.

While the final verdict is still out, it appears Connecticut educators are getting some value from the state’s System for Educator Evaluation and Development (SEED). That’s what UConn Neag School of Education researchers found in the second phase of their study of the state’s new educator evaluation system, which they shared with the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) yesterday.

The researchers’ presentation is here. Read more about the PEAC meeting here.

The researchers surveyed and interviewed teachers from January to mid-April in 27 schools that participated in the SEED pilot.

  • 63% indicated that the time spent being observed under SEED was valuable,
  • 61% said that the goal-setting discussion with their evaluator was valuable,
  • 58% found that talking about practice with their evaluator before observations was valuable,  and
  • 70% thought that talking about practice with their evaluator after observations was valuable.

Fifty-six percent of the educators agreed or strongly agreed that they understood and felt comfortable with SEED procedures — a big improvement over researchers’ findings in the first round of their study last fall.

“When SEED was implemented well — by that we mean it was implemented with fidelity to the model — there were some positive results,” said UConn Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership Morgaen Donaldson. “But at the same time, we found that the predominate theme was a focus on compliance rather than really getting the most out of SEED to improve practice.”

Educators’ comments about mid-year check-ins indicated they often had a technical and procedural focus rather than being used as an opportunity to sit down and re-evaluate goals and make changes as necessary, according to Donaldson. She said that most often check-ins didn’t result in revised Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) and that some teachers reported not knowing that they could adjust their SLOs if that was warranted.

Donaldson said that most observation debriefs occurred relatively late after the observation and were somewhat perfunctory. “Some conversations were not really conversations,” she said. “They were more an email exchange or just a My Learning Plan [the evaluation data management system used during the pilot] exchange. Almost no teachers said they received specific recommendations or professional growth opportunities during debriefs.”

The administrators surveyed indicated they thought SEED has potential, but that scheduling and completing observations is challenging, and reporting requirements are cumbersome.

The researchers’ recommendations to PEAC after the second phase of the study are as follows:

  • Offer professional development to administrators and teachers specific to each phase of implementation
  • Bolster professional development focused on coaching aspects of SEED (i.e. mid-year check-ins, debriefs, feedback)
  • Publicize and promote the complementary observer role
  • Streamline paperwork/reporting requirements
  • Better align administrator and teacher evaluation

“I think this reemphasizes what we’ve heard before about the necessity of flexibility as we move forward,” CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg told the UConn researchers. “I think your final recommendations will reinforce the essential need for change, whether it be within the guidelines or within SEED. When we have the opportunity to make those changes next year, I think it will lessen anxiety and move us from the concentration on implementation that you mentioned to more focus on learning in the classroom.”

The UConn researchers released findings from the first phase of their study in February. They have just finished the third round of data collection and plan to schedule another meeting to share this data with PEAC before the release of the final report. The final report must be submitted to the State Board of Education by January 1, 2014.

  1. Vicki DeLeo #

    I, too, am on our teacher evaluation committee, and we have the same issues with the “complimentary” evaluators. It goes without saying that the SEED plan is time and paperwork heavy, and with other responsibilities administrators have, something’s got to give. It will likely be the feedback or meetings that would most benefit teachers because they just don’t have the time to do it right. I imagine all districts that are using the SEED model are facing this as well. I know the idea of using teachers who hold an 092 has been a contentious issue, and was being discussed. Has it been resolved? PEAC now seems to be recommending that districts solicit complimentary observers from among qualified staff. It does raise other serious issues.

    July 13, 2013
  2. Allen Marko #

    I am on my district’s SEED committee and they are already pushing the idea of heavy use of “complimentary” evaluators. However, their idea of that term is to hire retired administrators from outside the district. This is causing a great deal of anxiety among our teachers. The district also wants to use fellow teachers who hold 092’s in this role but beside the fact that there aren’t many of them in our district, we are wary of potentially pitting teacher against teacher. The principals, meanwhile, are screaming that they will never be able to do all these evals and administer discipline and handle IEP, etc.

    July 11, 2013

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