Charter Network's Teacher Evaluation System Highlighted in Aspen Institute Report

A March 2011 report from The Aspen Institute provides an extensive description of the Achievement First charter school network’s new system for managing the performance of teachers. The report, Achievement First: Developing a Teacher Performance Management System that Recognizes Excellence, includes the school’s Essentials of Effective Instruction and a copy of the Professional Growth Plan and outlines the stages of teacher career development, including salary ranges.

The report was released March 22, 2011, at a forum in Washington, D.C., where Sarah Coon, Chief of Staff at Achievement First, shared the stage with Jason Kamras, Chief of Human Capital for the District of Columbia Public Schools; Rachel Curtis, a Human Capital Strategies for Urban Schools consultant who wrote the report; and Ross Wiener, Executive Director of the Institute’s Education & Society Program.

The Program also released two other reports: District of Columbia Public Schools: Defining Instructional Expectations and Aligning Accountability and Support and Building Teacher Evaluation Systems: Learning from Leading Efforts.

Achievement First (AF) -- a network of 19 schools in Connecticut and New York City that grew out of Amistad Academy in New Haven, Connecticut -- started in 2008 to develop its performance management system and expanded its pilot program across its whole network in 2010-2011, according to the report.

“A look at AF’s performance management system is particularly timely, given the growing national awareness that the current teacher evaluation system is broken,” the report states. “As school systems, teachers unions, and their partners work to fix it, the response needs to address more than the issues of binary ratings and weak implementation.”

Coon emphasized the importance of engaging teachers in planning the system and drawing on their knowledge. She said evaluation programs should be stocked with at least as many "carrots as sticks." “Almost all of our teachers have coaches,” she said.

Curtis, who worked for the Boston Public Schools for 11 years and devised the district’s instructional coaching model, encouraged flexibility in performance management systems. “It can’t be put in place and then that’s it,” she said. “How do we create space for this to be dynamic and evolving?”

Kamras said that although imperfections may exist in evaluation systems, they should not be allowed to block implementation. “Just the process of evaluation can have a positive impact,” he said.