NIU faculty deliver ‘administrator academy’ for District 428

From left: Laurie Elish-Piper, Alecia Santuzzi, Daivd Walker and Kelly Summers
From left: Laurie Elish-Piper, Alecia Santuzzi, Daivd Walker and Kelly Summers

A team of faculty affiliates from the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literacy (CISLL) developed and presented a two-day administrator academy for all DeKalb Community Unit School District 428 administrators and DeKalb Classroom Teachers’ Association representatives.

Held Aug. 12 and 13, “Effective and Ethical Evaluation Within a Balanced Assessment Framework” addressed the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) and assessment literacy.

PERA mandates that 30 percent of teacher evaluation is based on student growth, and this requires that administrators have a solid knowledge of assessment principles, growth models, descriptive statistics, inferential statistics and the Student Learning Objective (SLO) process.

NIU professors Kelly Summers, David Walker, Alecia Santuzzi and Laurie Elish-Piper, along with CISLL graduate assistant J. Schwartz, developed and presented the academy to meet the district’s goal of making their administrators prepared to implement PERA. The CISLL team will meet with the DeKalb administrators again in the fall semester to share and discuss how they have used the knowledge and skills from the academy to do pilot work associated with PERA.

“This administrator academy was a concrete example of linking research, policy, and practice,” said Elish-Piper, a Presidential Engagement Professor and Distinguished Teaching Professor.

“DeKalb 428 wanted their administrators to learn more about PERA, and NIU’s Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literacy PERA team members wanted to learn more about the practical concerns and challenges that administrators and teachers face as they work to implement the model,” Elish-Piper added. “Based on feedback thus far, it appears that we were successful in meeting both of these goals.”

Douglas J. Moeller
Douglas J. Moeller

District 428 Superintendent Douglas J. Moeller called the workshop “a phenomenal success” that “exemplified the best attributes of the NIU-DeKalb School District partnership.”

“Our administrative team gained a strong understanding of the theoretical foundations of probability that gives rise to the descriptive and inferential statistics they must use to accurately interpret assessment data,” Moeller said. “This understanding is critical for administrators who will be evaluating our faculty when Value Added Assessment (VAA) models are used as part of the teacher evaluation process.”

Much of the discussion centered on operationalizing these assessments, he added, and addressed the pragmatic concerns of administrating VAAs.

An important aspect of the workshop was that it assisted leaders in their recurrent exposure to, and development of, data literacy in the forms of descriptive and inferential statistics as well as measurement concepts such as validity, reliability and bias, Walker said.

Because PERA will not be fully implemented statewide for a couple years, Summers said, the DeKalb School District’s decision to engage in these conversations early and proactively demonstrates a commitment to “effective and ethical evaluations.”

“DeKalb is a shining example of best practices in action,” she said.

Santuzzi found the workshop mutually beneficial and rewarding.

“As a faculty member, I was excited to see that our training in measurement and research skills can help to address a need in the K-12 education community,” she said. “With the help of the participating principals and administrators, I learned a great deal about how the ‘rules’ of measurement and assessment can be challenged in the education context where there are already many mandated practices and procedures.”

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