First Year of REACH Students Teacher Evaluation System Off To a Strong Start Providing Critical Tools for Teacher Growth and Development 

CPS releases results for the first year of REACH Students, the District's comprehensive new teacher evaluation system.


September 18, 2013



CHICAGO – Chicago Public Schools today released results for the first year of REACH (Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago) Students, the District’s comprehensive, new teacher evaluation system. REACH Students, launched last school year, was created with input from teachers in collaboration with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to provide a roadmap for good teaching and the necessary tools teachers need to drive student achievement.


“What makes REACH Students successful is the fact that it was built with significant input from our teachers,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “It’s designed to not only to boost student success in the classroom, but to support teachers and their growth as professionals. REACH will support and empower our educators on their professional journey to create and sustain positive learning environments for all students in preparing them for success in college, career and life.”


Results from the first year of REACH Students highlights a more varied distribution for CPS’ non-tenured teachers across all four ratings (Excellent, Proficient, Developing and Unsatisfactory) than what the former 40-year-old-system offered. REACH Students is providing teachers and school leaders with unprecedented information to empower teachers to grow professionally and increase student achievement.


Teachers and principals have provided positive feedback on the evaluation process in its first year of implementation according to an independent report by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR).  This independent organization was chosen to evaluate our implementation on behalf of the CPS / CTU Joint Committee on teacher evaluation:


  • The overwhelming majority of teachers and administrators reported that the observation process supports teacher professional growth and improved the quality of professional conversations between them.
  • A majority of teachers (87%) indicated that their evaluator provided fair and unbiased assessments of their instruction.
  • 94% of administrators reported that the observation process has improved the quality of conversations with teachers about instruction.
  • Principals are encouraged by instructional improvements that they are observing following the teaching practice dialogues.


The report highlights key areas of success, while also providing insight into areas for improvement that CPS has already begun to address.  


Per the contract with the CTU, the new evaluation system only applied to non-tenured teachers in School Year 2012-2013 (SY12-13), which included over 4,200 non-tenured teachers who received an overall rating through REACH Students. These district-wide results show a shift in the distribution of teachers across the four rating categories with the majority falling within the two middle categories (proficient or developing), while fewer teachers received ratings at the highest level (excellent) or lowest level (unsatisfactory). Under the previous 40-year-old teacher evaluation system, the majority of teachers fell within the two highest rating categories across all teachers. Because that system was not comprehensive and didn’t provide meaningful feedback to support a teacher’s professional development, it limited the ability of principals and teachers to identify and acquire supports that could help them grow professionally.


The new system provides teachers with pinpointed areas of improvement through observations of teacher practice and multiple measures of student growth, thus enabling principals to better target how they can best support their teaching staff in their professional development. While ratings in year one applied only to non-tenured teachers, 91 percent of tenured teachers were observed at least once and engaged in a constructive dialogue with their school leader related to their instructional practice.  


As a result of the Illinois Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA), which mandated that CPS implement a comprehensive evaluation system by fall 2012, CPS began the work with teachers and principals to create an evaluation system that supports teachers and reflects the needs of today’s educators.  REACH Students was built on feedback from over 2,300 teachers at over 200 focus groups held at CPS schools and was designed in collaboration with the CTU. CPS and CTU held 35 meetings over 90 hours to negotiate the new teacher evaluation system. In addition to this teacher feedback received during focus groups, CPS also utilized findings and successes gathered in teacher evaluation pilot programs held over the last few years.


Each component of teacher evaluation is grounded in research and builds upon experiences from districts across the country. REACH Students is also comprised of multiple measures of teacher performance: Teacher Practice and Student Growth. Teacher Practice is the most significant component of the evaluation system and is measured through a series of teacher observations conducted by principals and assistant principals. Student Growth, per the requirements of the PERA law, must be a “significant factor” in teacher evaluations. Student growth is measured utilizing a combination of teacher-designed performance tasks for students and statistical growth data.   


Year One overall results for elementary school, non-tenured teachers is based 75 percent on teacher practice (observations) and the remaining 25 percent on student growth as measured through valued-added based on NWEA MAP assessment and the  REACH performance tasks for students (demonstrations of student work); for high school, non-tenured teachers teaching core subjects, 90 percent is based on teacher practice and 10 percent on REACH Performance tasks (created by teachers), while all other high school teachers’ ratings are based solely on teacher practice. 


REACH Students implementation in the current school year (Year Two) will include all non-tenured teachers and tenured teachers rated unsatisfactory and satisfactory based on the SY11-12 ratings under the old evaluation checklist. CPS continues to partner with the CTU on a bi-weekly basis through the REACH Joint Committee to address opportunities for continuous improvement. The Joint Committee will continue to work collaboratively to enhance and refine the REACH system.


About CPS

Chicago Public Schools serves 403,000 students in 681 schools. It is the nation's third-largest school district.


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Page Last Modified on Thursday, September 19, 2013