Reflections from a “Most Effective” Teacher (Part 1): Value-Added Ratings and FIP

Kate Kennedy, a 6th grade English language arts teacher at Evening Street Elementary in Worthington, reflects on strategies that helped her and her students to improve.

Last year I was a bit miffed to learn I was an "average" teacher under the state value-added teacher ratings. However, I got over myself, and got busy, and now I'm thrilled to see that my efforts paid off. My latest value-added teacher report names me as a "most effective" teacher, which places me in the top 10% of all teachers in my subject and grade level across Ohio. 

Now, I don’t think tests even come close to measuring everything I teach in a year, and I do think our children are over-assessed in general, but tests are still important. After all, I want my students to be college and career ready, and I also want to make sure they’re able to compete on high-stakes assessments such as the SAT, ACT, and GRE. But how much are my students growing? That’s what really matters to me.

So, how did I grow from average to most effective in just one school year? There’s no magic formula, but I did make a number of data-driven, instructional decisions last year. I believe these impacted how much my children learned, and thus, how much they grew. Nothing I did was rocket science exactly, but I did have to push myself to try some new things. Let's talk about the first strategy I implemented.

FIP and Value-Added: How One Feeds the Other

I have been using formative instructional practices, with varying degrees of success, for all of my teaching career. This is now my seventh year of full-time teaching, and I really appreciate the information value-added provides. While it is used for my evaluation--and I know this puts a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths--I use it formatively. That is, I examine which groups of children grew and which did not. Last year I discovered that my highest performing children were growing the most, but my children in the middle were growing less than I would like. So I made some changes, and here’s what happened:

I really was able to produce more growth with my middle kids and I still produced decent growth with my highest students, but unfortunately not as much as the previous year. So this year I’ll be working even harder towards great growth with ALL my kids. 

I know some teachers who never even open their value-added reports, because they don’t think they’re valid, and I think that’s a shame. They give you one piece of additional information that can show you where you are strongest, while bringing to light any areas of weakness you may have. Honestly, I’m not sure I would've made the changes that I did were it not for my value-added report. It was an alert that I needed to step up my game and try some new things, and those efforts are paying off.

Stay tuned for more reflections from Kate in Part 2.