Professor Etta Hollins is well known in the field of teacher education as an innovative scholar, teacher, and consultant.  Prior to assuming her present position at the University of Missouri at Kansas City she was professor and academic chair of teacher education at the University of Southern California where she led the development of a doctoral program for the preparation of teacher educators and the development of the award winning synchronous online preservice teacher preparation program.  In the present position she designed and coordinates the graduate certificate in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, which is aimed at improving teaching practices for urban and underserved students in elementary and secondary schools.

Etta Hollins is the author of numerous articles, books, and other publications.  Her book Culture in School Learning has won two national awards and has been translated into Greek. The third edition was published in May, 2015.  Her book Rethinking Field Experiences in Preservice Teacher Preparation was published in April, 2015.

In 2015, Etta Hollins was a spotlight speaker for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, research speaker for the Association of Teacher Educators, and keynote speaker for the Maryland Cultural Proficiency Conference. She presently serves as a member of the accreditation council for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the research and policy advisory council for the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, and the teacher education advisory council for Salish Kootenai College.  She has served as senior advisor for the Journal of Teacher Education and on the advisory board for the American Educational Research Journal, Journal of Teacher Education, Review of Educational Research, Reading Research Quarterly, and Teaching Education. She has reviewed book manuscripts for Routledge Publishers and Teachers College Press.

Etta Hollins has received numerous awards and recognition for her work including lifetime achievement awards from the American Educational Research Association and Pittsburg State University, Kansas.  In 2015, she received the American Education Research Association Presidential Citation for her work in advancing knowledge of teaching and learning for urban and underserved students.

Teacher Evaluation and Disparities in Opportunities for Learning

In the 2010-2011 academic year and for the first time in the nation’s history more than 80% of students who entered 9th grade graduated from high school, according to The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, as reported in The Condition of Education, 2015). However, a growing concern for education stakeholders is the underperformance of students in the nation’s public schools across all grade levels and populations, and in core subject areas.  For example, a 2013 report from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) indicated that in mathematics, 26% of U.S. 12th graders achieved proficiency.  In comparison, 7% of African American students and 12% of Hispanic students achieved proficiency in mathematics.  The 2013 NAEP report indicated that in reading, nationally 38% of U.S. 12th graders achieved proficiency.  In comparison, 16% of African American students and 23% of Hispanic students achieved proficiency in reading. The NAEP data show the cumulative impact of underperformance across grade levels in P-12 schools among all student populations within the United States, as well as the disproportionate and devastating impact on traditionally underserved ethnic minority students.

Student underperformance in P-12 schools has an impact on college readiness, employment income, and the general quality of life in the society.  The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (2010) reported that “nearly 60 % of first-year college students discover that, despite being fully eligible to attend college, they are not academically ready for postsecondary studies.”  Educational attainment has long-term effects on the income for individuals and families. NCES (2015) reported that in 2013 individuals with a bachelor’s degree earned a median annual income of $48,500, those with a high school diploma earned $30,000, and those without a high school diploma earned $23,900.  Additionally, the underperformance of students in P-12 schools has contributed to shortages in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.  For example, the American Medical Association has estimated that by the year 2025 the United States could face a shortage of as many as 90,000 physicians.  Addressing the cycle of poverty in the urban core and the shortage of available talent for STEM related professions requires improving the academic performance of students in P-12 schools.

How to improve student performance in public schools is a hotly debated topic; however, most stakeholders agree that teacher quality is a central factor. Teacher quality is observable in the wide variation in student learning outcomes among individual teachers and schools serving low-income, ethnic minority, and urban students with similar characteristics. The focus on teacher quality has led to demands for accountability in the form of new standards and measures of effectiveness for teachers and teacher candidates in preservice teacher preparation programs.  Examples of popular instruments used to evaluate teaching are the Danielson Framework for Teacher Evaluation, the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) developed by Robert Pianta, the iObservation instrument developed by Robert Marzano, and various value-added assessment models that include student test scores as part of the evaluation of teaching effectiveness. Value-added models of teacher evaluation are especially controversial.   Some scholars and stakeholders are concerned that value-added models will discourage teachers from accepting positions in hard-to-staff schools.  In the recent past, it has been well documented that novice teachers indicated a willingness to accept a position in a hard-to-staff school even when feeling unprepared, if another position was not available.  The low academic performance in many hard-to-staff schools indicates that such decisions by novice teachers may not have been in the best interest of the students.  However, the fact that novice teachers leave their preservice programs feeling prepared to teach students from some cultural and experiential backgrounds, but not others, is an issue that needs to be addressed.  A popular version of preservice teacher performance assessment is the edTPA developed at Stanford University.  Several states have developed their own versions of preservice teacher performance assessment; and, most emulate the format and content of the edTPA.  Preservice performance assessments are not without controversy.  Some teacher educators believe that adding these assessments will discourage those interested in becoming teachers from applying for admission to a preservice program.  Others believe that the performance assessment for preservice teachers is one step toward improving academic learning outcomes in the nation’s public schools.

While teaching evaluation and preservice teacher performance assessments have grown in popularity, the reliability and validity of the instruments used have not been fully established.  There is insufficient evidence to support a claim that teachers who perform well on measures of teaching effectiveness are prepared to foster high outcomes from students in different school contexts, especially schools serving urban, ethnic minority, and low-income students. This credibility gap has not prevented teaching evaluation and preservice assessment from becoming high stakes and consequential for individual teachers and teacher candidates.  Further, new standards set by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and standards set by individual states hold preservice preparation providers accountable for the performance of their graduates on multiple measures of teaching effectiveness.  In response, teacher educators are giving attention to the content and approach used in these teaching evaluation instruments in redesigning teacher preparation programs.

A cause for concern is that teaching evaluation, preservice performance assessment, program evaluation and accreditation constitute standards of practice that represent claims about the extent to which teachers and candidates demonstrate competence for facilitating the expected developmental and learning outcomes for students.  The research on which the standards for these evaluation approaches are based is not consistently focused on persistent issues in teaching underserved students such as the low academic performance, the dysfunctional social context in many urban schools, and the high teacher turnover rate in schools serving urban and low income students.  Addressing these issues requires that teachers understand how to adjust pedagogy for different populations of students, have deep knowledge of child and adolescent growth and development, and understand ways to develop relationships with and among children and youth.  The extent to which preservice teachers receive such preparation and the attention given to the preparation of teachers for underserved students varies widely across programs.  This raises questions about the extent to which preservice providers will be held accountable for their graduates’ performance in hard-to-staff schools.  Will teachers placed in hard-to-staff schools be held to the same standards of teaching effectiveness as those placed in other schools?  Or, will expectations for teaching effectiveness be lower in hard-to-staff schools in ways that maintain present disparities, such as underserved students’ access to high quality learning opportunities, or that maintain disparities in learning outcomes?



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One Response to “Teacher Evaluation and Disparities in Opportunities for Learning by Etta Hollins, PhD”

  1. Willis Hawley on 11/18/15 9:39 PM US/Eastern

    Evaluation instruments in general do not deal adequately with culturally responsive pedagogy and until they do, the opportunities to improve teaching for all students will be limited accordingly. In addition, no matter how good the instruments, unless principals and other evaluators rate all but two percent of teachers as effective, evaluation will make little difference.

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