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As trainings start, a new name for new teacher evals: Advance

Love it, hate it, or reserve judgment — just don’t call it “the city’s new teacher evaluation system.”

The Department of Education has a new name for the evaluation system that State Education Commissioner John King imposed on the city a month ago: Advance.

The name, which comes with a snazzy logo, got its first public airing today as the department launched a series of summer training sessions aimed at preparing schools to begin implementing the evaluation system this fall. The department held five training sessions across the city today and plans to hold 53 total before the end of next month.

At Brooklyn Law School, where administrators and teachers from 32 schools convened, department officials said they had decided to give the evaluation system a name to communicate the purpose of the changes. The new system will help teachers advance professionally, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said, and it is also an advance from the system that was in place until now.

Officials said they looked at other districts that have adopted new teacher evaluation systems and found that educators in districts that rebranded their evaluation systems understood the system’s goals and details better. Washington, D.C., called the evaluation system it adopted in 2008 IMPACT, while Indiana is calling its new evaluation system RISE.

Educators participating in today’s training session had not yet assimilated the name into their vocabularies. Instead, looking at the Danielson Framework for Teaching, which will be used to assess teachers’ instructional practices, many focused on citing language in the rubric to assess teachers described in case studies that the department distributed. The case studies centered mostly on areas of the Danielson rubric that the city, hoping that its evaluation system could be constrained, had not asked schools to emphasize before.

Now, even educators who participated in the department’s Teacher Effectiveness Pilot are learning about how to assess the ways that teachers prepare for their classes and participate in professional responsibilities within the school.

Marcella Barros, a former principal who has served as a talent coach at the department for the last year, said she was heartened to see educators rate their knowledge of the Danielson Framework as their major area to work on, above building a positive culture at their school and ensuring that their staff is committed to changing their instructional practices.

“That’s good news,” she said. “We can totally help with that.”

In the afternoon, the educators turned their attention to “measures of student learning,” the assessments that schools will have to select and administer starting this fall in order to generate “growth scores” for teachers. They also got a primer on how the evaluation components will turn into a final score, a question that has been tricky even for the state officials who designed the evaluation system.

Some question marks remained when the training broke for lunch. For example, teachers said they wished the department had come up with a list of materials that teachers can provide as evidence of work that does not take place in the classroom. “We feel like we’re prepared,” said Carolyn Denizard, the UFT Chapter Leader at Brooklyn’s P.S. 38. “But artifacts — it’s hard to know what that is when they don’t even know themselves. How are we supposed to go back to our schools?”

“The only things we can’t address are the things we don’t know,” Barros said. “We’re really committed to not giving inaccurate information.”

The last page of the agenda that educators received acknowledged that a single day of training was not enough to master the complex new evaluation system.

“This training is not designed to cover everything you need to know,” the agenda said. “You will be provided with more support and resources this summer and throughout the year.”