Latest from REL West: EL Students With Disabilities | Using Teacher Data | Student Voices
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In This Issue

  • Director’s Update
  • How Are Teacher Evaluation Data Used to Inform Workforce Decisions in Arizona?
  • Strategies to Identify and Support English Learners With Learning Disabilities
  • REL West Hosts Teacher Effectiveness Data Use Seminars
  • Nevada Students and Educators Converge to Amplify Student Voice
  • Do Principals' Observation-Based Ratings of Teacher Practice Provide Sound Scores for Teacher Evaluation?
  • News from Other RELs

Director's Update

Photo: Nikola FilbyUsing data to inform decisions. That sounds good, but which data, for which decisions? Several recent REL West studies in the Educator Effectiveness Alliance have tackled these questions by looking at the properties of different measures of teaching, and at how five districts actually used data for a range of decisions, including professional learning and talent management. See if their practices sound like yours.
Seminars were held in Arizona and Utah to help administrators apply these ideas. Stay tuned for our forthcoming video, which adapts these ideas for use in local workshops or planning sessions. Also, check out the brief looking at what states are doing to identify and support English learner students who may have disabilities. So far, there are no proven approaches for effectively identifying these students, but some states and districts are using promising strategies, described in this brief.

And, finally, as the school year ends for many of the educators among us, we'd like to express our appreciation for the incredibly important work you do to give each child an excellent education and the opportunity to realize her or his potential. Have a great summer!

New Research & Resources

How Are Teacher Evaluation Data Used to Inform Workforce Decisions in Arizona?

Image: Checklist and state of Nevada outline
Read the report

A new REL West study describes how five Arizona school districts are using teacher evaluation data to inform decisions concerning teacher professional development, compensation, school and classroom assignment, remediation, and retention. Findings were drawn from interviews with district officials and instructional coaches and online surveys of school principals and teachers. Findings from the study suggest positive benefits from the organizational structures that support the review of data during the school year—standards-based observation frameworks, benchmark assessments, professional learning communities, and instructional coaching and feedback.

Decisions reportedly based on teacher evaluation data, by district

Table: Decisions based on teacher evaluation data
Read the Report: How are teacher evaluation data used in five Arizona districts?

Strategies to Identify and Support English Learners With Learning Disabilities

Photo: EL studentThere are no definitive processes for identifying English learner (EL) students with learning disabilities and determining the best academic placement for them, but some states and districts do use strategies that can help identify and support these students. A REL West resource brief reviews the research and protocols used by the 20 states with the largest EL populations and looks closely at the five states that have developed manuals to better identify and support English learner students who may have learning disabilities.

Read the brief: Strategies to Identify and Support English Learners With Learning Disabilities

Education Week story: "States Struggle to Identify, Support ELLs with Learning Disabilities"

REL West Hosts Teacher Effectiveness Data Use Seminars

"It's one thing to have data, it's another thing to use [data] in some kind of instructional push.... Those kinds of conversations are happening now, and they hadn't happened before."
— Arizona District Superintendent, 2015
Across the country, district and school leaders are now using multiple measures of teacher effectiveness to make evidence-based workforce decisions and inform teacher development efforts. As new approaches are adopted, questions arise on how to use these data meaningfully. This spring, REL West led interactive seminars for district leaders in Arizona and Utah on ways to use teacher effectiveness data. Using mock data and their own district data, participants explored:
  • The strengths and limitations of different data sources;
  • How to use teacher effectiveness data to make staffing, teacher leadership, and professional development decisions; and
  • Barriers to using teacher effectiveness data.
Work is in progress to develop video from these events into virtual tools that can be adapted for use in local workshops or planning sessions, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can see our teacher effectiveness research and resources at the Educator Effectiveness Alliance home page.

Nevada Students and Educators Converge to Amplify Student Voice

In early June, Washoe County School District hosted its second Strength in Voices event in Reno, Nevada. The event, co-sponsored by REL West, was attended by approximately 200 people. Nearly two-thirds of the attendees were middle and high school students from the district and the remainder were teachers and district and school leaders.
The goal of the summit was to bring together students and adults to surface areas for improvement and ways to collaborate on addressing them. The event supports the district's "90 by 20" initiative of graduating 90 percent of students by 2020. Student voice is a centerpiece of this school improvement initiative. Students played key roles in the conference, leading or co-leading sessions on bullying, the impact of stereotypes, the importance of student voice in school improvement efforts, transitioning from middle to high school, creating a culturally competent school, and using technology to amplify student voice.
Along with sessions, there were student presentations on personal stories of struggles to stay in school, student musical and spoken-word performances, and a superintendent-student beat-box rap duo about the 90 by 20 initiative. The day concluded with a brainstorming session in which students could provide feedback to their schools' leaders about what they'd like to see improved at their schools.

Learn more about REL West work on dropout prevention in Utah 

Do Principals' Observation-Based Ratings of Teacher Practice Provide Sound Scores for Teacher Evaluation?

States and districts across the country are seeking to improve teacher evaluation systems; many, in part, by assessing teachers based on their teaching practices inside and outside the classroom. A new validity study by REL West examined a classroom observation instrument in one district's teacher evaluation system. The instrument was adapted from the Danielson Framework for Teaching, which groups 22 components of teaching into four domains. Whereas previous studies have examined only a portion of the Danielson Framework, typically focusing on the ratings of teachers' practices in the classroom, this study examined the full Danielson Framework, including teachers' planning for instruction and carrying out of professional responsibilities.
Read the report: Examining the Validity of Ratings from a Classroom Observation Instrument for Use in a District's Teacher Evaluation System

News from Other Regional Educational Labs

REL Appalachia, REL Northwest, and REL Mid-Atlantic
July 25, Nashville, Tennessee
Live event: Postsecondary Readiness in Rural Communities
REL Northwest
New research: Developmental Education and College Readiness at the University of Alaska
View report
REL Mid-Atlantic
August 25, Noon PT
Webinar: Creating and Sustaining Professional Learning Communities
REL Midwest
New research: Development and Implementation of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems in Midwest Region States
Read report

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