blog posts and news stories

New Mexico Implementation


Empirical Education and the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) are entering into their fourth year of collaboration using Observation Engine to increase educator effectiveness by improving understanding of the NMTEACH observation protocol and inter-rater reliability amongst observers using it. During the implementation, Observation Engine has been used for calibration and professional development with over 2,000 educators across the state annually. In partnership with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), who is providing training on best practices, the users in New Mexico have pushed the boundaries of what is possible with Observation Engine. Observation Engine was initially used solely for certifying observers prior to live classroom observations. Now, observers are relying on Observation Engine’s lesson functionality to provide professional development throughout the year. In addition, some administrators are now using videos and content from Observation Engine directly with teachers to provide them with models of what good instruction looks like.

The exciting news is that the collaborative efforts of NMPED, SREB, and Observation Engine are demonstrating impressive results across New Mexico that are noteworthy, especially when compared to the rest of the nation. In a compilation of teacher performance ratings from 19 states that have reformed their evaluation system since the seminal Widget Effect Report, Kraft and Gilmour (2016) found that in a majority of these states, fewer than 3 percent of teachers are rated below proficient. New Mexico stood out as an outlier among these states with 26.2% of teachers rated below proficient, a percentage comparable with more realistic pilots of educator effectiveness ratings. This is likely a sign of excellent professional development, as well as a willingness to realistically adjust the thresholds for proficiency based on the data that is being yielded and examined from actual practice, such as data captured within Observation Engine.

Kraft, M.A., & Gilmour, A.F. (2016). Revisiting the Widget Effect: Teacher Evaluation Reforms and the Distribution of Teacher Effectiveness. Brown University working paper. Retrieved July 21, 2016, from http://scholar.harvard.edu/mkraft/publications/revisiting-widget-effect-teacher-evaluation-reforms-and-distribution-teacher.

2016-12-02

Pittsburgh Public Schools Uses 20 New Content Suite Videos


In June 2015, Pittsburgh Public Schools began using Observation Engine for calibration and training their teacher evaluators. They were one of our first clients to use the Content Suite to calibrate and certify classroom observers.

The Content Suite contains a collection of master scored videos along with thoughtful, objective score justifications on all observable elements of teaching called for by the evaluation framework used in the district. And it includes short video clips focused on one particular aspect of teaching. The combination of full-length and short clips makes it possible to easily and flexibly set up practice exercises, collaborative calibration sessions, and formal certification testing. Recently, we have added 20 new videos to the Content Suite collection!

The Content Suite can be used with most frameworks, either as-is or modified to ensure that the scores and justifications are consistent with the local context and observation framework interpretation. Observation Engine support staff will work closely with each client to modify content and design a customized implementation plan that meets the goals of the school system and sets up evaluators for success. For more information about the Content Suite, click here.

2016-11-10

Arkansas Implements Observation Engine Statewide

BloomBoard’s observation tool, EdReflect, has been used across the state of Arkansas since fall 2014. Last year, the Arkansas Department of Education piloted Observation Engine, an online observation training and calibration tool from Empirical Education Inc., in four districts under the state’s Equitable Access Plan. Accessible through the BloomBoard platform, Observation Engine allows administrators and other teacher evaluators to improve scoring calibration and reliability through viewing and rating videos of classroom lessons collected in thousands of classrooms across the country.

Paired with BloomBoard resources and training, the results were impressive. In one district, the number of observers scoring above target increased from 43% to 100%. Not only that but the percent discrepancy (scores that were two levels above or below the target) decreased from 9% to 0%. Similar results were found in the other three pilot districts, prompting decision makers to make Observation Engine readily available to districts throughout the state.

“EdReflect has proven to be a valuable platform for educator observations in Arkansas. The professional conversation, which results from the ability to provide timely feedback and shared understanding of effective practice, has proven to ensure a transparency and collaboration that we have not experienced before. With the addition of Empirical Education’s Observation Engine, credentialed teacher observers have ready access to increase inter-rater reliability and personal skill. For the first time this year, BloomBoard Collections and micro-credentials have begun meeting individualized professional learning needs for educators all over the state.”
– Sandra Hurst, Arkansas Department of Education

In July, the Arkansas Department of Education decided to offer Observation Engine to the entire state. About half of all districts in the state opted in to receive the service, with the implementation spanning three groups of users in Arkansas. The Beginning Administrators group has already started pursuing a micro-credential based on Observation Engine. Micro-credentials are a digital form of certification that indicate a person has demonstrated competency in a specific skill set. The Beginning Administrators group can earn their “Observation Skills for Beginning Administrators” micro-credential by demonstrating observation skill competencies using Observation Engine’s online observer calibration tool to practice and assess observation skills.

Next month, the 26 more districts under the Equitable Access Plan and the remaining Arkansas districts will begin using Observation Engine. We look forward to following and reporting on the progress of these districts during the 2016-17 school year.

2016-11-02

Presentation at the 2016 Learning Forward Annual Conference

Learning Forward announced that our proposal was accepted for the 2016 annual conference being held in Vancouver, Canada this year. Teacher Evaluation Specialist K.C. MacQueen will join Fort Wayne Community Schools’ (FWCS) Todd Cummings and Learning Forward’s Kay Psencik in presenting “Principals Collaborating to Deepen Understanding of High-Quality Instruction.” They will highlight how FWCS is engaged in a process to ensure equitable evaluation of teacher effectiveness using Observation Engine™. If you or someone you know is attending the annual conference in December 2016, here are the details of the presentation.

  • Day/time: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 from 10AM-Noon
  • Session: I 15
2016-08-02

Learning Forward Presentation Highlights Fort Wayne Partnership

This past December, Teacher Evaluation Specialist K.C. MacQueen presented at the annual Learning Forward conference. MacQueen presented alongside Fort Wayne Community Schools’ (FWCS) Todd Cummings and Laura Cain, and Learning Forward’s Kay Psencik. The presentation titled, “Implementing Inter-Rater Reliability in a Learning System,” highlighted how FWCS has used Calibration & Certification Engine (CCE), School Improvement Network’s branded version of Observation Engine™, to ensure equitable evaluation of teacher effectiveness. FWCS detailed the process they used to engage instructional leaders in developing a common rubric vocabulary around their existing teacher observation rubric. While an uncommon step and one that definitely added to the implementation timeline, FWCS prioritized this collaboration and found that it increased both inter-rater reliability and buy-in to the process with the ultimate goal of assisting teachers in improving classroom instruction to result in greater student growth.

2016-01-19

We Would Like to Introduce You to Our Newest Research Managers

The Empirical Research Team is pleased to announce the addition of 2 new team members. We welcome Erica Plut and Thanh Nguyen on board as our newest research managers!

Erica Plut, Research Manager

Erica has taken on management of the Ask A REL project for REL Midwest and is working with other Empirical staff in responding to stakeholder queries Erica’s teaching experience and Stanford education has also been an asset to the Observation Engine™ team in their development of the “Content Suite”, which provides school system administrators with pre-coded videos and justification feedback aligned to the observation rubric they use in evaluating the individual need for teacher professional development.

Thanh Nguyen, Research Manager

Thanh is taking on the role of lead project manager for our evaluation of the i3 grant for WestEd’s Making Sense of Science project. She has already plunged into the substance, attending the Making Sense of Science Facilitation Academy in Oakland at the WestEd offices and had the opportunity to meet the other key people on the project. Thanh’s knowledge of education research and experience in project management makes her the perfect fit on our team.

2015-06-24

Empirical Education Helps North Carolina to Train and Calibrate School Leaders in the North Carolina Educator Effectiveness System

Empirical Education, working with its partner BloomBoard, is providing calibration and training services for school administrators across the state of North Carolina. The use of Observation Engine began in June with a pilot of the integrated solution, and once fully deployed, will be available to all 115 districts in the state, reaching more than 6,000 school leaders and potentially 120,000 teachers in the process.

The partnership with BloomBoard gives users an easy-to-use, integrated platform and gives North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) a comprehensive online training and calibration solution for school administrators who will be evaluating teachers as part of the North Carolina Educator Evaluation System (NCEES). The platform will combine Empirical’s state-of-the-art observer training and calibration tool, Observation Engine, with BloomBoard’s Professional Development Marketplace.

NCDPI Director of Education Effectiveness, Lynne Johnson, is excited about the potential for the initiative. “The BloomBoard-Empirical partnership is an innovative new approach that will help change the way our state personalizes the training, professional development, and calibration of our educators,” says Johnson. “We look forward to working with partners that continue to change the future of U.S. education.”

Read the press release.

2014-08-07

Can We Measure the Measures of Teaching Effectiveness?

Teacher evaluation has become the hot topic in education. State and local agencies are quickly implementing new programs spurred by federal initiatives and evidence that teacher effectiveness is a major contributor to student growth. The Chicago teachers’ strike brought out the deep divisions over the issue of evaluations. There, the focus was on the use of student achievement gains, or value-added. But the other side of evaluation—systematic classroom observations by administrators—is also raising interest. Teaching is a very complex skill, and the development of frameworks for describing and measuring its interlocking elements is an area of active and pressing research. The movement toward using observations as part of teacher evaluation is not without controversy. A recent OpEd in Education Week by Mike Schmoker criticizes the rapid implementation of what he considers overly complex evaluation templates “without any solid evidence that it promotes better teaching.”

There are researchers engaged in the careful study of evaluation systems, including the combination of value-added and observations. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded a large team of researchers through its Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, which has already produced an array of reports for both academic and practitioner audiences (with more to come). But research can be ponderous, especially when the question is whether such systems can impact teacher effectiveness. A year ago, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) awarded an $18 million contract to AIR to conduct a randomized experiment to measure the impact of a teacher and leader evaluation system on student achievement, classroom practices, and teacher and principal mobility. The experiment is scheduled to start this school year and results will likely start appearing by 2015. However, at the current rate of implementation by education agencies, most programs will be in full swing by then.

Empirical Education is currently involved in teacher evaluation through Observation Engine: our web-based tool that helps administrators make more reliable observations. See our story about our work with Tulsa Public Schools. This tool, along with our R&D on protocol validation, was initiated as part of the MET project. In our view, the complexity and time-consuming aspects of many of the observation systems that Schmoker criticizes arise from their intended use as supports for professional development. The initial motivation for developing observation frameworks was to provide better feedback and professional development for teachers. Their complexity is driven by the goal of providing detailed, specific feedback. Such systems can become cumbersome when applied to the goal of providing a single score for every teacher representing teaching quality that can be used administratively, for example, for personnel decisions. We suspect that a more streamlined and less labor-intensive evaluation approach could be used to identify the teachers in need of coaching and professional development. That subset of teachers would then receive the more resource-intensive evaluation and training services such as complex, detailed scales, interviews, and coaching sessions.

The other question Schmoker raises is: do these evaluation systems promote better teaching? While waiting for the IES study to be reported, some things can be done. First, look at correlations of the components of the observation rubrics with other measures of teaching such as value-added to student achievement (VAM) scores or student surveys. The idea is to see whether the behaviors valued and promoted by the rubrics are associated with improved achievement. The videos and data collected by the MET project are the basis for tools to do this (see earlier story on our Validation Engine.) But school systems can conduct the same analysis using their own student and teacher data. Second, use quasi-experimental methods to look at the changes in achievement related to the system’s local implementation of evaluation systems. In both cases, many school systems are already collecting very detailed data that can be used to test the validity and effectiveness of their locally adopted approaches.

2012-10-31

Oklahoma Implements Empirical’s Observation Engine for Certification of Classroom Observers

Tulsa Public Schools, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma Administration, and Empirical Education Inc. just announced the launch of Observation Engine to implement the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness program in the state of Oklahoma. Tulsa Public Schools has purchased Empirical Education’s Observation Engine, an online certification and calibration tool for measuring the reliability of administrators assigned to conduct classroom observations. Tulsa Public Schools developed the Tulsa Model for Observation and Evaluation, a framework for ensuring teaching effectiveness performance, as well as best practices for creating an environment for successful learning and student achievement. Nearly 500 school districts in the state are piloting the Tulsa Model evaluation system this year.

In order to support the dissemination of the Tulsa Model, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma Administration (CCOSA) is training and administering calibration tests throughout the state to assess and certify the individuals who evaluate the state’s teachers. The Tulsa Model is embedded in Observation Engine to deliver an efficient online system for state-wide use by Oklahoma certified classroom observers. Observation Engine is allowing CCOSA to test approximately 2,000 observers over a span of two weeks.

Observation Engine was developed as part of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching project in which Empirical Education has participated as a research partner conducting R&D on validity and reliability of observational measures. The web-based software was built by Empirical Education, which hosts and supports it for school systems nationwide.

For more details on these events, see the press announcement and our case study.

2012-10-10
Archive