Evaluating ALL Teachers of English Learners and Students With Disabilities: Supporting Great Teaching


Diane Staehr Fenner, Peter Kozik & Ayanna Cooper

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    Praise for
    Evaluating ALL Teachers of English Learners and Students With Disabilities

    “This book is a must read for today’s teachers and administrators. By viewing diverse students and their educators as assets, identifying research-based strategies, and offering practical examples, Staehr Fenner, Kozik, and Cooper provide a framework for rich instructional conversations that moves teacher evaluation from the blame game, that beats educators down, to a collaborative and informative process that empowers teaching effectiveness and student learning.”

    —Spencer Salend, Emeritus Professor of Educational Studies
    State University of New York at New Paltz

    “Teacher evaluation is perhaps the last vestige of segregated education; a situation that can only be remedied by thoughtful proposals for authentic change. In this ground-breaking text, Staehr Fenner, Kozik, and Cooper move the field forward by providing a theory and research based framework for preparing, evaluating and supporting teachers to effectively educate all students, including English language learners and students with disabilities. Rather than retrofitting typically used evaluation tools, the proposed framework embraces UDL by considering the principles and practices associated with effective inclusive schooling from the outset. Teachers, administrators, and teacher educators can easily use this framework to tailor their own processes for promoting professional development and teacher effectiveness.”

    —Leslie C. Soodak, Professor of Education
    Pace University

    “Educating the growing number of English Learners in PreK–12 educational settings can no longer be the sole responsibility of ESL and bilingual experts. All teachers and administrators must build new competencies in order to reach this diverse group of students and develop their full potential. In this context, what constitutes a fair and effective teacher evaluation system? In this book, the authors successfully outline an objective assessment framework that builds educators’ individual and collective capacity to improve their practice not only with ELs but with all their students. A must read for teachers and evaluators alike.”

    —Rosa Aronson, Executive Director
    TESOL International Association

    “When teacher evaluations became part of our school accountability system I wondered how effective teaching of students with disabilities would be addressed. This book provides the answer! I am particularly impressed with how reflective practice is embedded within the process described in this book. It’s a must-have for any teacher evaluator who wants to assess how teachers are teaching all students well within an inclusive classroom.”

    —Cheryl M. Jorgensen, Educational Consulting
    Inclusive Education Consultant

    “Drs. Staehr Fenner, Kozik, and Cooper have started an essential conversation. Schools serve increasingly diverse populations and in order to do that well, all aspects of the school culture must support inclusive practices. Teacher evaluation should include attention to the needs of ALL students and support evaluators to create an atmosphere of cohesiveness among general and special education teachers as they work together to improve learning outcomes for all students. I would recommend this text to anyone who evaluates teachers, the practical scenarios and look-fors will help evaluators think about how to best structure pre- and post-observations, as well as providing helpful guidelines for consideration during observations. There is great urgency to ensure that teacher evaluation doesn’t move forward without inclusive attention to the needs of ALL students and the practices their teachers employ.”

    —Jessica A. McCord, Educational Consultant
    Keystone Assessment

    “This book is an invaluable resource that addresses a critical, national issue facing teacher evaluation systems as teachers and their evaluators grapple with determining how the standards of teaching practice – what teachers should know and be able to do – apply to general education classrooms with English Language and student with disabilities. The authors’ four fundamental principles undergird a thoughtful, informative process supported by research, practitioner’s voices, and common sense strategies to assess and enhance teacher effectiveness. This book provides a real service to teachers and evaluators by making the complexities of teacher evaluation a meaningful experience with profound benefit, not only for educators, but all students and the schools in which they are enrolled. “

    —Lawrence T. White, Director of Educational Services

    “This book is an essential tool for teachers, administrators, and parents who strive to level the playing field by providing every child with an equal opportunity to learn. The authors have addressed the important topics of what teachers need to know to create a positive learning environment for all students, including English learners and those with special needs. It includes evidence-based effective practices that evaluators should look for in inclusive classrooms and professional development ideas to develop a community of learners. Teacher evaluation with diverse populations in our 21st century classrooms is challenging. Diane Staehr Fenner, Peter Kozik, and Ayanna Cooper have created a compendium of resources that many will find helpful.”

    —Dolores Burton, Author
    The Burton Group

    “Staehr Fenner, Kozik, and Cooper have hit the mark! Educators, administrators, and evaluators now have a valuable resource to assist them as they navigate the world of teacher evaluation. Clearly, these authors have their fingers on the pulse of today’s schools, excellently articulating the issues and challenges associated with educating diverse learners. They describe the conditions necessary for English learners and students with disabilities to meet with success while also articulating the factors that lead to an educators’ success. Their chapters dedicated to the four principles of inclusive teacher evaluation provide the reader with a deeper understanding of the supporting research as well as practical strategies for implementation. The case examples, in addition to the tables, graphics, and sample documents are valuable in that readers can immediately replicate these strategies. Also, the quotations throughout the book illustrate the practicality of the material. I look forward to using this book in several of my teacher preparation courses as well with educators who are very much in need of guidance on this important issue.”

    —Kathleen M. Feeley
    Long Island University


    When the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) began union-led work in 2010 on teacher development and evaluation systems, in partnership with two state federations, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals (RIFTHP), we encountered little to no information on how these systems address the needs of English learners (ELs) and students with disabilities enrolled in general education classrooms. This initiative, the Educator Evaluation for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (E3TL) Consortium project, which involves the AFT, NYSUT, the RIFTHP, and labor-management teams from ten school districts across New York and Rhode Island, is primarily funded by an Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Education and by an AFT Innovation Fund grant.

    The E3TL project’s overarching goal is to establish state-of-the-art teacher development and evaluation systems. A unique characteristic of this project is that the particular learning needs of special populations (English learners and students with disabilities) are taken into account by identifying what teachers and evaluators need to know and be aware of when it comes to instructing ELs and students with disabilities in general education classrooms. From what we have observed, it is the only project of its kind in the nation.

    Given that increasing numbers of ELs and students with disabilities spend the majority of their school day in general education classrooms, the members of the E3TL project realized that there is an urgent need for general education teachers to be evaluated appropriately and fairly. When we learned that our colleagues Diane Staehr Fenner, Peter Kozik, and Ayanna Cooper, were going to write this book, we were thrilled, and we cheered them on because the topic is virtually unexplored in the field.

    The abilities and needs of these special student populations are not fully addressed by most teaching practice rubrics, yet these rubrics are becoming the norm nationwide for teacher evaluation systems (e.g., Danielson, Marzano, and others). This poses a challenge. Teachers in inclusive settings serving ELs and students with disabilities require much more preparation, support, resources, and information than currently available using any rubric.

    For example, ELs with very basic levels of English proficiency and students with disabilities with significant cognitive or speech and language impairments may need special considerations and accommodations in order to successfully participate in classroom instruction. Without the right supports to help teachers engage these students in grade-appropriate content through a variety of alternative methods, teacher evaluation in these classrooms runs the risk of just becoming a better “gotcha tool,” in the commonsense words of teacher evaluation expert Angela Minnici (2014), who was the i3 project director when the grant was awarded for this work.

    Consistent with the E3TL’s goals, this book communicates a clear vision of effective teaching, accurately identifies and supports teachers on a continuum of performance, and provides accurate and rich data that can be used to guide and deploy resources to help all teachers develop and improve. Research indicates that fidelity of implementation is critical to the success of comprehensive teacher evaluation systems in improving teaching quality and increasing student achievement (Darling-Hammond, 2014). This book identifies quality implementation components of performance-based teacher evaluation systems to assist in scaling up and sustaining such systems across the country.

    To address the needs of ELs and students with disabilities in general education classrooms, this book addresses three components that were developed through the work of the E3TL project:

    • It provides considerations for effective practice in the teaching of ELs and students with disabilities (these were incorporated as an addendum in the teaching standards rubrics used by NYSUT and the RIFTHP). The considerations highlight what’s needed to help provide a positive learning environment that capitalizes on the diverse linguistic, social, cultural, and intellectual needs of the student body in all aspects of language and content acquisition. Additionally, the considerations within the rubrics outline the conditions necessary for ELs and students with disabilities to be successful learners in general education classrooms and the supports general education teachers must have access to in order to be successful. These considerations are particularly important in assisting both teachers and evaluators in understanding what it means and what it takes to be an effective teacher of ELs and students with disabilities.
    • It provides a set of shared values for effective instruction of ELs and students with disabilities (originally presented in an issue brief written by this book’s authors, commissioned by the E3TL). The values state that schools and classrooms can better promote the success of all students by working to provide equal access for all learners, supporting student individuality and diversity, using responsive teaching strategies, and forming a culture of collaboration.
    • It discusses the professional development needed for evaluators and teachers working with ELs and students with disabilities. It focuses on evidence-based practices, what evaluators should look for in inclusive classrooms, essential supports that general education teachers need, and the issues evaluators and teachers should be aware of when educating ELs and students with disabilities.

    The AFT, NYSUT, and the RIFTHP did not embark on this E3TL project in isolation. We convened a committee composed of national experts and practitioners (teachers and administrators) from participating districts to examine their teaching standards rubrics and provide guidance on effective teaching practices for general education teachers with ELs and students with disabilities enrolled in their classrooms. Three of those experts who worked diligently with us are the authors of this much-needed book.

    One of the lessons learned is that any multifaceted teacher evaluation and development system cannot be implemented with fidelity without a well-thought-out process and the requisite amount of investment, expertise, collaboration, and consistent tweaking.

    As teacher evaluation systems evolve, we expect to see more guidance for school districts and state departments of education on what teachers and evaluators should consider when it comes to effective teaching involving special populations. In the meantime, we predict that trailblazing efforts such as our E3TL project and this book will inspire schools and union leaders to make their teacher evaluation process as inclusive as possible and to provide teachers and other educators with the guidance, resources, and preparation they need to help all students succeed.

    —Melanie Hobbs and Giselle Lundy-Ponce, American Federation of Teachers


    Diane Staehr Fenner: This book exemplifies what can happen when individuals who represent different perspectives collaborate effectively and focus on student learning. I would first like to thank my coauthors Peter Kozik and Ayanna Cooper for agreeing to write this book with me that grew out of our initial project with the American Federation of Teachers. I would also like to recognize Giselle Lundy-Ponce, Melanie Hobbs, Diane August, Spencer Salend, and Catharine Whittaker for helping to shape my thinking on teacher evaluation that is inclusive of all learners. A heartfelt thanks to Ellen Street for helping out with some references and also to Sydney Snyder for providing input on the organization of the book.

    I am especially thankful for Corwin’s senior acquisitions editor Dan Alpert for immediately affirming that teacher evaluation inclusive of ELs and students with disabilities was a much-needed topic in the field when I proposed the idea him. Dan has offered many insights into the direction of this book, and I would like to thank him for his many layers of support. In addition, I would like to say thank you to the Corwin team, including Kimberly Greenberg, Stephanie Trkay, and Cesar Reyes for supporting our work through all aspects of the publication process and to Linda Gray and Amy Schroller for their attention to detail and patience while editing the book.

    Peter Kozik: There are many mentors and thoughtful educators I would like to acknowledge as having contributed to my thinking for this book: Gerald Mager, Matt Giugno, Wilma Jozwiak, and the many educators on the Task Force for Quality Inclusive Schooling, as well as my colleagues Iris Maxon and Steven Wirt, who implemented the task force, a 15-year attempt to provide educational equity for students with disabilities in New York State. In addition, I want to honor the advocacy of Lisa Prosser, Ben’s mom, and John Shamlian, Haley’s dad, and the many parents and students whom I’ve tried to serve within the system. Also, I want to acknowledge the “white hairs” who represent for me public education working hard in the interest of all students: David Dineen, Marilyn Dominick, and Clifford Crooks as well as Rick Cowles, the best assistant principal with whom I’ve served. I also want to thank Robin Hecht for her continued support of good teaching and the contributions she made to developing the scenarios in this book. Thank you, finally, to Diane, Ayanna, Spencer Salend, and Melanie Hobbs who have helped guide my thinking over the last five years.

    Ayanna Cooper: To my coauthors Diane and Peter, I could not have imagined we would continue this adventurous journey together, advocating for ELs and students with disabilities, since we first worked together a few years ago. Mahalo! I am also grateful for the opportunity to share the voices of dedicated educators as part of this book. A special thank-you goes to Craig Martin, Cherrilynn Woods-Washington, Lynette Jackson, Julie Carroll, Brenda Colonna, Celeste Hentz, Elizabeth McNally, and Margo Williams. I appreciate you sharing your personal perspectives and experiences working with diverse student populations.

    About The Authors

    Diane Staehr Fenner is the president of DSF Consulting, LLC, a woman-owned small business dedicated to the achievement of English learners (ELs) through professional development, curriculum design, research, and technical assistance. Clients include the American Federation of Teachers, the Center for Applied Linguistics, the National Education Association, the Peace Corps, state departments of education, school districts, and the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Staehr Fenner frequently partners with the American Institutes for Research on projects that support ELs. She serves as the council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) program coordinator for TESOL International Association. Prior to forming DSF Consulting, Dr. Staehr Fenner gained research and EL policy experience at George Washington University’s Center for Excellence and Equity in Education. Her instructional background includes a decade as an ESOL teacher, dual-language assessment teacher, and ESOL assessment specialist in Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia. She writes a blog that provides practical information and strategies for teachers of ELs for the Colorín Colorado website. Her first book published by Corwin Press was Advocating for English Learners: A Guide for Educators (2014). She also coauthored Preparing Effective Teachers of English Language Learners with Natalie Kuhlman (TESOL International Association, 2012). Dr. Staehr Fenner is a frequent speaker about EL education at conferences across the nation. However, her most important role is that of Mommy to Zoe, age 10; Maya, age eight; and Carson, age five.

    Peter Kozik is a former social studies and English language arts teacher, adult GED instructor, community college teacher, teacher center director, chairperson of special education, director of special education, and RK–12 public school principal with over 30 years of experience in the field of education. From 2002 to 2011, he served as the research coordinator and then the project coordinator for the New York State Higher Education Support Center, located at Syracuse University, and as the chairperson for the New York Task Force on Quality Inclusive Schooling, a consortium of 75 colleges and universities in New York State with teacher preparation programs focused on the inclusion of students with disabilities in the K–12 general education curriculum. He is currently an assistant professor of education at Keuka College in the Finger Lakes region of New York State where he teaches undergraduate courses in Adolescent Integrated Methods, Youth-at-Risk in American Schools, and Assessment in Inclusive Schools, as well as graduate courses in literacy leadership and in teaching writing PreK–12. He and his life partner, Carolanne, a professor of nursing at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, codirect the Knapsack Consulting Group, which provides organizational and professional development for religious, not-for-profit, educational, and health care entities. They have raised five children, ten dogs, nine cats, and four chickens in South Onondaga, New York.

    Ayanna Cooper is an independent consultant who specializes in building the capacity of all educators who serve English learners. By working closely with districts and state departments of education, she is able to aid in improving outcomes for English learners, their families, and their teachers. Her professional experiences include teaching English as a second language (ESL), instructional coaching, supervising urban ESL teacher candidates, and serving as the K–12 director for an English learner public school program. Ayanna has also worked on various projects and has been an invited speaker for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA). She has an extensive background in teaching courses for both preservice and inservice educators of English learners. Most recently, she has served as the associate program chair for the TESOL International Association 2015 International Convention & English Language Expo in Toronto, Ontario. Ayanna has designed and facilitated professional development nationwide for educators on a number of topics, including use of the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) ELD Standards and Assessments, differentiated instruction, and interpreting English language proficiency data. She has written articles and blog posts and has served on a number of committees dedicated to teaching and advocating for culturally and linguistically diverse learners. This is her first publication with Corwin.


    I dedicate this book to my husband David and children Zoe, Maya, and Carson. I also dedicate this book to teachers who are striving for equitable instruction of all learners.

    —Diane Staehr Fenner

    My work on this book is dedicated to my family and the love we share and to my friend, Francis Burke.

    —Peter Kozik

    I dedicate this book to my husband Ronnie, children Ronnie and Breanna Cooper, and to my mother Deborah Wornum. Thank you for your continued support, words of encouragement, and especially your patience. I would also like to dedicate this book in memory of my grandmother Edith E. McClannahan.

    —Ayanna Cooper
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