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July/August 2016

Practical PR
PERA playbook: Lessons from collaborative process
by Peg Mannion

Peg Mannion, APR, is community relations coordinator for Glenbard Township High School District 87

The 2016-17 school year is the first that all Illinois school districts will be required by law to include data and indicators of student growth in rating teacher performance.

Glenbard Township High School District 87 has been recognized as a leader in developing a fair and consistent model for this process. A school board undertaking review and revision of the district’s process should consider the approach outlined below.

Recently, the DuPage Regional Office of Education invited Glenbard District 87 to share its work at a daylong symposium. School districts from across the Chicago metropolitan area attended and heard about the good work that the Glenbard District 87 Joint Committee engaged in, including developing a Student Growth Guidebook. This committee includes teachers and central office administrators.

Glenbard Education Association President Tom Tully said, “The key to any successful initiative is trust and respect. We had both of those variables in completing our joint committee work.”

For the last few years, Glenbard developed common standards, learning targets, and assessments that capture student growth in various courses. This work has been collaborative and inclusive. Glenbard teachers developed quality pre- and post-assessments in all subject areas. These assessments measure the deep-learning tasks that are part of today’s high school classroom. The district has supported this work by bringing in experts from across the area to work alongside teachers.

Even before the Glenbard District 87 Joint Committee started its work in November, several teachers and administrators conducted considerable research and planning. A variety of groups — called the Evaluation Research Task Force — came together and ultimately made recommendations to the Joint Committee.

Superintendent David Larson praised their work. “We are very proud of this work and look forward to finally being able to quantify the good work we know is happening in our classrooms. I’m confident that the Joint Committee’s research and planning will help us achieve our goal of implementing a student growth requirement that will benefit student learning and support reflective instruction,” Larson said.

The Glenbard District 87 Joint Committee’s Student Growth Guidebook includes:

  • Beliefs and convictions
  • Student learning objective guidelines
  • Student learning objective process and timelines
  • Summative performance evaluation rating
  • Extenuating circumstances
  • Support
  • Ongoing role of the joint committee

As the school district evaluates its process to include student growth in teacher evaluation, consider the following student growth tips for success from Glenbard District 87:

  1. Don’t force new assessments into your system just to meet compliance. Instead, revise assessments you already have that are meaningful for teaching and learning.
  2. Remember the impact of a 30 percent student growth model is relatively negligible when compared to the 70 percent professional practice component. Don’t radically redesign what you know is working in your assessment system just for PERA.
  3. Use a joint committee process to affirm your 70 percent professional practice component. If you use a holistic Danielson Framework for Teaching for your professional practice component, make sure your student growth component also is as holistic as possible and cognizant of good teaching and learning.
  4. Hire a moderator/third-party expert to run meetings. We worked with Carrie Scheib of the Consortium for Educational Change.
  5. Start your own joint committee meeting by seeking to agree on a short list of consensus beliefs and convictions that will drive the team’s decision-making.
  6. Write a communication plan at your first joint committee meeting that outlines how meeting notes/summaries will be shared with one voice to ensure only the agreed information is being shared.
  7. Communicate information being decided to all staff regularly, using the same message with as few voices as possible to ensure the message is communicated consistently at all schools. Our Glenbard Education Association president and lead administrative liaison spent a day at each of the district’s four high schools to share the decisions being made with all staff in small groups:
    • When the professional practice portion was completed;
    • When the initial student growth recommendations were made; and
    • When the Glenbard District 87 Joint Committee completed its final recommendations.
  8. Assume goodwill on both sides and leverage trustful relationships.

“The longstanding relationship between the administration and the teachers association is invaluable in accomplishing difficult tasks that other districts look at in amazement,” said Tully.

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