Now is the time to get started on “Student Growth”

Sandoval Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Garrison and I have started to train school administrators on how to go about the process of using student growth to meet the requirements of PERA. We have conducted three trainings thus far and the constant message we are receiving from the participants is that districts are behind in the development stage for this important component of performance-based teacher evaluation. This message is constant in all areas of the state.

PERA requires all school districts by school year 2016-17 to be in full implementation of performance-based teacher evaluation including both teacher practice and student growth. No later than November 1, 2015, the district and teachers’ union must form a PERA Joint Committee to decide on all the critical aspects of this new law. The bottom 20% performing school districts need to be in full implementation by 2015-16 and with PERA Joint Committee formed and meeting by November 1, 2014.

ISBE and PEAC are recommending that districts spend at least one full year practicing the assessments prior to implementation. It takes another full academic year to decide on what assessments to use and to develop the local assessments. This pushes the date for most districts to choosing and developing the assessments in school year 2014-15. For those who have to go earlier this work should have been done during this school year.

It is recommended that districts start an “informal” PERA Joint Committee as soon as possible to discuss the various options. Districts may want to contract with IASA to bring Jennifer and I to your district to start this discussion.

The first part of this process is reading and understanding the various components of the law that can be found in the Administrative Rules for Part 50 on the ISBE website athttp://www.isbe.state.il.us/rules/archive/pdfs/50ARK.pdf

The next important piece is a complete understanding of Type I, Type II and Type III assessments.

We have been recommending that districts start a “District Assessment Identification Tool.” Using a spreadsheet, list all categories of teachers in the first column, and then Type I, II, III in the next three columns. After listing all categories of teachers start filling in the spreadsheet with all assessments your district presently is using for all three types. Next, to fill in the missing pieces you will need to determine what assessments need listed as each teacher is required to have at least one assessment from Type I or Type II and one from Type III. If no Type I or II is available then the teacher can be measured by two Type III student growth assessments.

ISBE is in the process of developing the default model for student growth as required in the PERA law. This process will include the use of SLO’s for Type III assessments. In the training we present, Jennifer and I discuss in detail how her school district has already implemented student growth for performance-based teacher evaluation. Developing SLO’s are time consuming, complicated and potentially critical collective bargaining discussions.

Using Video to Improve Teaching Practice

For several years I have been suggesting to teacher evaluators and teachers to use video for teachers to reflect on their own practice and also for evaluators and teachers to use video to talk about teaching practice. I would strongly encourage you to visit the Teaching Channel website at https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/improve-teaching-with-video and watch this eight minute video on 2010 National Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling http://www.ccsso.org/ntoy/national_teachers/teacher_detail.html?id=76 reflect on how she uses video to improve her own teaching.

Ms. Wessling uses a Flip Camera with a wide-angle lens attached to the camera and mounts the camera on a tripod. In the video Ms. Wessling explains how she videos nearly every lesson she teaches. Ms. Wessling states, “I think there is a difference between the abstract of how we see our teaching practice and the concrete reality of it. I think what the video offers us is a certain degree of reality. There is a lot to be learned from that.”

Reflection is a key component of the Danielson Frameworks. Video is the best process I think any person could use who wants to improve his or her own performance. Ms. Wessling scans the video and makes written notes about what she is seeing. She uses these notes to reflect on her own performance.

In this video there is also a segment where Ms. Wessling is engaged in a reflective conversation with her principal about her teaching practice while watching the video. Notice how this reflective conversation takes place in her classroom and the evaluator and the teacher are sitting side by side discussing the teaching practice. This is not about rating teachers this is about improving the teaching practice so students perform better.

 

Will PERA result in more tenured teacher dismissals?

I believe a common assumption among educational reformers, some school board members and some school administrators is that the implementation of the Illinois Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) is that it will be easier for school districts to remove tenured teachers. While there are some provisions in SB7 that change some of the processes for dismissal of tenure teachers, the administrator work in gathering proof is essentially unchanged.

In teacher dismissal cases administrators need to determine if the teacher is being disciplined for misbehavior or incompetence. If the employee engages in conduct that is irremediable (as defined in a variety of teacher dismissal cases) then the teacher can be dismissed. If the conduct is remediable the employee will receive a Notice to Remedy from the school board and will continue to be employed but must remediate the behavior.

Teaching pedagogy falls into the remediable category. This requires that the administrator do the following:

  • Collect evidence via informal and formal observations and share the evidence with the teacher in writing.
  • Formal observations must be preceded by a conference between the teacher and the evaluator, followed by another conference between the teacher and evaluator.
  • If the teacher is rated unsatisfactory there must be a process with the union to select a second evaluator.

A very important item of tenured teacher dismissal in Illinois that SB7 did not change is that the school board possesses only an investigatory/charging function in tenure dismissal cases. The hearing officer possesses the authority to decide all issues with respect to a dismissal decision, including the GRAVITY and SERIOUSNESS of the charges (Spangler 1st Dist App 2002).

A matter of great importance to the actual evaluator is what the evaluator must do with the teacher in order to meet the requirements of a well-executed evaluation of remediating the teacher. This includes the following points:

  • The evaluator needs to gather the facts by observing the teacher. What exactly did the evaluator see? What happened in the classroom?
  • Next the evaluator must know what a “proficient” teacher does and communicate these skills to the unsatisfactory teacher.
  • The evaluator must tell the teacher in exact words what the teacher needs to do to get to the proficient level. The evaluator cannot use words such as should, may, ought to consider, etc…
  • The evaluator must also tell the teacher how to do what the evaluator is directing the teacher to do.

The above listed processes and skills are the same now as they were before the implementation of PERA. The evaluator is recommended to do multiple observations of teaching, share in writing the facts from the observation along with suggested corrections to any fact that the evaluator deemed to be Needs Improvement or Unsatisfactory. The evaluator then needs to ensure that the teacher understands the directions on how to improve and also provides supports for the teacher to improve their performance.

The one major change that will occur when the district implements Performance-Based Teacher Evaluation is the use of student growth as a significant factor in the summative rating of the teacher. This is in addition to consideration of the teacher’s attendance, planning, instructional methods, classroom management and competency in the subject matter taught.

Where is your district in relation to compliance with PERA? (Performance Evaluation Reform Act)

Superintendents need to be aware of the various timelines required as a result of the PERA implementation. Most Illinois school districts (top 80% scoring districts as of spring 2014 testing) do not have to comply with most aspects of the new teacher evaluation act except for the four categories of ratings and the keeping of the new RIF’s lists by grouping based on teacher summative rating and teacher tenure by position. However, this does not mean that a lot of work needs to be done immediately concerning performance based teacher evaluation.

In my opinion, school districts should be well on their way to full implementation of the professional teacher practice requirements including rating teachers according to the Danielson Frameworks for Teaching. Teachers need considerable professional development on the requirements of Danielson and administrators need ongoing training on collecting evidence, reflecting with teachers on the evidence, coaching teachers to improve their performance and gaining inter-rater reliability with all other teacher evaluators in the district.

The multitude of decisions relating to the incorporation of student growth as a “significant factor” in the evaluations of teachers needs to be started immediately if the district has not already begun this work. Assuming an implementation date of September 2016, ISBE is recommending that all assessment instruments be pilot tested prior to implementation. This means that districts should be spending the 2015-16 school year beta testing all assessments. As a result, districts will need to make decisions on all assessments to be used for performance-based teacher evaluation during the 2014-15 school year. If your district is in the lower 20% of performing districts, each of the above deadlines will need to be pushed ahead by one year. For example, your district should be spending this entire year determining what assessments you will be using.

Many of these decisions are very complicated and will take a great deal of discussion between administrators and teachers in addition to a great deal of training and professional development. ISBE is allowing districts to form an “Informal PERA Joint Committee” to get a head start on this process prior to the official start of the PERA Joint Committee.

IASA has prepared an academy and various training workshops for districts as the district progresses along toward compliance with this new law. Districts interested in contracting with IASA to provide these trainings can email Kim Herr at [email protected]

Teacher Evaluation: Inter-rater Reliability

As we get closer and closer to the full implementation of PERA, districts need to consider the concept of inter-rater reliability. As superintendent, you might consider getting your teacher evaluators together monthly to watch a teacher video, analyze it and rate the teaching. Illinois teacher unions are very concerned that administrator’s inter-rater reliability for teacher practice observation and evaluation will not meet high standards. The best way to combat this accusation is to conduct and document these sessions regularly with your administrators.

I have written several times previously about using video for teacher evaluation purposes and I have been informed by administrators that in some areas of the state teacher unions are contesting the use of videos.  Often referenced is Plock vs. Freeport Board of Education (http://bit.ly/11eM5bY ). This 2009 case examined audiotaping in a special education classroom because of alleged student abuse. The District was audiotaping the classroom while it was in session.  The Illinois Appellate Court examined whether the District’s proposed policy of videotaping classrooms (after employees brought complaint) violated the Illinois Eavesdropping Act (720 ILCS 5/14-1 et seq.), and found that the policy violated the law.  While the United States Supreme Court has refused to take up the issue, the 7th Circuit Federal Court has since suggested the Eavesdropping Act, as written in Illinois, may be unconstitutional.  The more important issue, however, is the impact of collective bargaining rights on videotaping procedure.

In talking to school attorneys about the concept of video recording teaching they are recommending that the Administration/Board meet and confer with the bargaining unit over this issue and see if agreement can be made on a policy about video recording of teacher performance prior to the implementation of video recording as a part of regular evaluation.  This certainly will be a topic that is discussed when the Joint Committee of teachers and administrators gather to discuss the policies, procedures and practices for teacher-performance based teacher evaluation.

Time to Change Systems and Processes Due to Poor Education Funding

Never in my 42-year educational career have I witnessed the dire financial condition of the State of Illinois like it is today. I have keep detailed figures and analysis of state funding for public education over the 32 years I have been involved in educational administration and the lack of state support for public education is at an all time low.

Reading and listening to the various candidates for Governor, the large scale pension changes already enacted, the expiration date of the temporary state income tax increase, the continued explosion of families in need of public assistance, the newly enacted health care law, the multitude of mandated changes to public education from NCLB to PERA and much, much more…

How are we going to deal with all these issues at the same time state support for public education is at a historic low point? I think the only way public education can survive is to re-tool itself. We need to start thinking outside the traditional box of public education and start to incorporate different processes, strategies, teaching techniques, bargaining methodologies, class size restrictions, and much more in order to educate the students of tomorrow.

I suggest that every district that is experiencing financial difficulties start a process immediately to develop a new strategic plan around the concept of changing the traditional methods of teaching and learning. Most school districts spend 70% to 80% of their expenditures on salaries for staff. Districts can make headlines by cutting sports, music, extra curricular activities, administrators, supplies, field trips, etc… but in the end these expenditures will have a minimal impact on the overall budget. The real savings comes from cutting teaching staff.

Many districts have cut staff over the past several years only to see increased spending in special education services that are mandated.

Mooresville Grade School District in Mooresville, North Carolina would be an interesting case study for Illinois school districts to investigate. Dr. Mark Edwards, Superintendent of Mooresville, initiated a 1:1 computer program in his school district several years ago. Mooresville has increased their student academic scores to one of the highest performing districts in the state with one of the lowest per student expenditures.

You can read and view much more about Mooresville Graded School District at http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/personalized-learning/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L15pelU3eUE&list=PLhdwy3ASoEfmBYOQI-ZTdRX-ulErQ1OpG

The following has been copied from the above-mentioned article from American Radio Works;

“Before the laptop program began in 2008, only 73 percent of students in Mooresville were scoring proficient on the state’s standardized tests. In 2012, 89 percent of students scored proficient. Mooresville was the second highest performing school district in North Carolina.

The high school graduation rate went from 77 percent to 90 percent in that same time. Students from poor families are now graduating at nearly the same rate, on average, as other students: 86 percent. And African-American students are doing better than any other group. The black graduation rate went from 67 percent in 2007 to 95 percent in 2012.

It’s impossible to say whether the district’s success is because of the laptop program, and school leaders are up front about that.

“We did mess up the research,” says Mooresville Middle School principal Carrie Tulbert, because other aspects of the school district changed, too. “We didn’t do it on purpose, obviously. But it would not be accurate to say” that laptops are the only reason Mooresville Schools have improved.

When Superintendent Mark Edwards came to Mooresville, he made a number of changes, such as adjustments to the curriculum and a new program focused on building better relationships between teachers and students.

Any one of these things could have made a difference. And it could just be that people in Mooresville got behind something new and by all pulling in the same direction, they improved their schools.”

If you visit Mooresville you will find that they do not buy textbooks anymore, they do not have copy machines or paper, they have digital learning. This district really has changed “teaching” to “mentoring.” I remember doing a Podcast interview with a Eureka Middle School math teacher, Mrs. Tignor, who had changed her math classes to a “Flipped Classroom” approach. Mrs. Tignor told me during this interview the following had a major impact on how I view the use of technology in the classroom. Mrs. Tignor said “In the past I might personally talk to four or five students during a class period. With this approach I talk to every student every day. I have never had so many students doing this well in my classes.” How powerful is that statement?

If we have to increase class sizes to generate the amount of savings districts will need to generate in these times of decreasing resources, then we must find a different way of teaching students. Technology and flipped classrooms are not the only solutions but I have personally visited classrooms like these and I have been amazed at the work of both the students and the teachers.

In no way am I advocating that class sizes be increased. However, during these economic times when increased class sizes will occur because this is the only solution that can cut large amounts of expenditures then we need to figure out how to educate students better with fewer resources. Now is the time to start this conversation in your school district. I do not see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

 

Now is the time to put ‘Accountability’ into teacher evaluation

For years I have listened to and participated in conversations among school administrators about the perceived fact that poor and unsatisfactory teachers could not be removed from their positions because of the Illinois teacher tenure law. Illinois newspaper reporter Scott Reeder did a newspaper series in 2005 on why tenure teachers were not released in Illinois titled “The Hidden Costs of Tenure.”

Reeder made many critical points about why tenured teachers in Illinois have not been fired in the past, including: 1) extreme high cost for lawyers and possible teacher buyout (2005 record of cost was $220,000 per case); 2) extensive amount of time the school administrator will have to dedicate to the process; 3) a 50/50 chance of winning the case when it goes to arbitration; and 4) several court cases including Board of Education of Community Consolidated School District No. 54 v. Spangler. This major teacher dismissal case was seen as huge loss for the firing of tenure teachers.

Senate Bill 7 has changed many of the processes and procedures related to teacher evaluation. First and foremost, teacher evaluation has changed to a performance-based system. This means teachers must be evaluated not only on the way they practice (actual work in the classroom), but also on the growth of their students. Following are some items SB 7 has changed and some that have not changed (special thanks to attorney David Braun, who helped compile the two lists).

SB 7 also has changed the following processes:

  • • Reduction in Force (RIF) may now intercede a dismissal process (if a teacher is rated as Needing Improvement or Unsatisfactory and is placed in Group 2 for RIF purposes, the teacher loses their position with no call-back privileges at the time of the RIF);
  • • Teacher evaluations now impact the district RIF process;
  • • There is an extra step (board hearing) before post-dismissal hearing with a hearing officer;
  • • There is a procedural step following the hearing officer opinion (the decisions returns to the Board of Education);
  • • ISBE now has the option to pull a certificate of a teacher who is given two unsatisfactory summative ratings;
  • • Two additional joint committees have rules that impact evaluation procedure (RIF Joint Committee and PERA Joint Committee); and
  • • Teacher evaluators must be pre-qualified

SB 7 has not changed other things, such as:

  • • Evaluators are still required to prove adequate evaluation;
  • • Fundamental fairness still applies;
  • • The burden of proof still falls upon the evaluator to prove the employee’s conduct (or misconduct); and
  • • The hearing officer still has the authority to review all the evidence, and formal rules of evidence do not apply

So just how has teacher evaluation gotten better? How is it more accountable?

In training thousands of Illinois teacher evaluators during the past several years I have been advocating for more teacher observations, both formal and informal. The most important components in the process are the collection of valid evidence related to the Danielson Frameworks for Teaching (FFT) and the subsequent reflective conversations the teacher evaluator needs to have with the teacher. The reflective conversation needs to center on the improvement of the teacher’s pedagogical performance and subsequent student growth.

It is very important that teacher evaluators concentrate on specific aspects of the FFT, focusing observations on one Domain/Component at a time. Then the evaluator must sit down with the teacher — preferably in the teacher’s own classroom — and discuss what was observed.

Any teacher behavior that is judged to be less than excellent then needs a reflective question asked by the evaluator to the teacher encouraging the teacher to form a solution that they can commit to and will do to improve their own teaching. The real power of any evaluation system is improving performance. The teacher needs to generate the interest, the knowledge and the passion to improve their own performance. The evaluator then returns to see if the performance has in fact changed and improved. The real accountability is in changing the performance, not rating the teacher.

Components of a well-executed teacher evaluation include:

  • • The evaluator carefully and accurately collects the facts about what is occurring in the classroom during the observation. I encourage evaluators to look for FFT Domain/Component 3c “Engaging Students in Learning” first. They should be recording evidence of what the students are learning as a top priority of gathering evidence.
  • • Next, the evaluator needs to know what an excellent teacher would do. This is where the FFT rubric is essential for describing what is expected. In addition to the FFT, both evaluators and teachers need to read and study about the Danielson work. A great resource is Danielson’s book “Implementing the Framework for Teaching in Enhancing Professional Practice.”
  • • Next, the evaluator must direct the teacher regarding what the teacher needs to do to get better. I suggest that evaluators use “coaching” techniques for teachers who are at the Proficient Plus or better rating level. For those teachers rated lower than Proficient Plus, the evaluator will need direct or tell the teacher what they specifically need to do to get a better rating. At the Needs Improvement or Unsatisfactory level, the evaluator should state emphatically exactly what the teacher must do to get better. The evaluator also must ensure that the teacher knows how to do what you are directing them to do.

The issue of using student growth in the teacher evaluation process will be required to be a significant part of the performance based teacher evaluation process for all teachers by 2016. Most school districts are just now starting to learn more about this process and there is still much to be discovered.

As a member of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) since 2010 I can tell you that using student growth for teacher evaluation will be a very complicated and controversial process. Most districts will be bargaining these issues with their teacher associations in the PERA Joint Committee. The new caveat in this process is that the new law now prescribes that any part of student growth not agreed to at the PERA Joint Committee level will fall back to the state default plan and/or process.

As districts and teacher associations learn these new processes together I think it is good for school administrators to remember that you are setting new precedent, and making teacher contractual collective bargaining decisions that will affect your administrators, teachers and students for years to come. Once you agree on the many elements that will be required to use student growth for teacher evaluation it will be very hard to change any decision that ends up being beneficial for teachers but not for administrators and/or students.

For example, I have heard of districts agreeing to use the whole district growth score for NWEA math and reading or ACT composite scores as the primary factor for determining growth for all teachers. When districts do this, they marginalize the student growth score so that all teachers receive the same student growth weight. This makes student growth insignificant for individual teachers.

While I do feel that the research for using student growth to evaluate individual teachers needs more research and improvement, I think the use of student growth scores over time (three to four years composite scores) does indicate a trend. Combining the student growth scores with the teacher practice evaluation adds creditability to the summative evaluation.

I predict that there will be a push from teachers to weigh teacher-made assessments as the primary indicator of student growth. Administrators need to question the validity and reliability of teacher-made assessments and combine these with Type I and II Assessments. Type I examples are NWEA and MAP tests. Type II examples are collaboratively developed common assessments such as curriculum tests and assessments designed by textbook publishers.

 

District administrators need to concentrate on making the performance-based teacher evaluation processes valid and reliable for the final rating of the teacher, not for each individual assessment.

 

Why Teacher Evaluators Need More than “Teachscape” Training?

During the summer of 2012, all Illinois school administrators who evaluated teachers were required to take an online course developed by Consortium for Educational Change (CEC) that included an online module on teacher practice evaluation based on the Danielson Frameworks provided by a private firm “Teachscape.” In addition, CEC developed four additional modules related to the new performance based teacher evaluation system being implemented in Illinois.

The modules developed by CEC were well-done and provided Illinois administrators’ knowledge on the new evaluation system. The Teachscape module had the very difficult task of trying to make a complex subject, the Danielson Frameworks for Teaching (FFT), understandable and prepare evaluators to have a degree of inter-rater reliability when evaluating teachers. In my opinion this was an impossible task to complete online in such a short period of time.

Teacher evaluators need much more training than Teachscape was prepared to offer. As an example, the Chicago Public School District (CPS) is offering ongoing training to all of its administrators. In addition to the Teachscape training, during the 2012-13 school year Chicago teacher evaluators were provided four additional training sessions on performance based teacher evaluation skills.

Teacher evaluators need more training on topics such as 1) taking observational notes, 2) coaching strategies when working with teachers, 3) how to use student growth metrics when doing summative performance based evaluations, 4) more knowledge about the various components within the FFT. IASA offers exactly this type of training and if you are interested in bringing this training to your school district please contact me at [email protected] or my assistant Kim Herr at [email protected] and we will bring this ISBE approved administrative academy training right to your school.

CPS required its teacher evaluators to make four formal observations during the first year of implementation. It is interesting to note that the average CPS elementary principal had 17 teachers to evaluate and the average CPS high school evaluator had 24 teachers to evaluate. How many teachers are each of your evaluators required to evaluate?

Lessons learned from CPS REACH (Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago’s Students) included 1) both teachers and evaluators found this process useful for improving instruction, 2) teachers were hesitant about the use of student growth for teacher evaluation purposes, 3) this new process put a tremendous demand on administrative time, 4) the FFT was considered to be fair with clear expectations of the teacher.

Learning how to evaluate teachers under this new performance based teacher evaluation system will be on-going and will be a study in progress for years to come. My advice to you at this time is to try to get this teacher practice evaluation complete as soon as possible because in the very near future you will have to start understanding the student growth of the teacher evaluation process.

Reflective Conversations with Teachers/Principals

I am spending more and more time training teacher and principal evaluators to allow the people they are evaluating to reflect on their own practice rather than the evaluator “telling” the teacher or principal what to do.

Teacher and principal evaluation consists of collecting data in both informal and formal observations and sharing that data with the employee. I recommend that evaluators be focused on one particular Domain/Component when observing teachers. For example, when observing a teacher the evaluator may want to concentrate on 3b. Questioning and Discussion. In the process of collecting the data the evaluator may have recorded 25 questions asked during the observation. The evaluator should keep track of who is asking the questions (teacher or student), who is answering the questions (teacher – student, student – student, student – teacher, teacher – teacher, nobody), what is the level of higher order thinking (analyzing the verbs and adverbs used in the question by Bloom’s Taxonomy), amount of wait time the teacher and/or student give the respondent to answer, etc…

When collecting this data an example of a summary of the data might be the following: The teacher asked 25 questions; students asked two questions; the teacher answered 10 of her own questions, five questions were not answered by anybody and 10 questions were answered by seven different students with two of the students answering two questions each. Of the 25 questions asked by the teacher, 23 were basic knowledge level, one was application and one was evaluation. The two student questions were both knowledge level. The teacher would receive this summary from the evaluator as soon as possible following the observation. I use an electronic device and program and email the teacher the observation data before leaving the class and in this email I suggest a time and date for the evaluator (me) and the teacher to meet and discuss the observation.

In this reflective meeting I do not have to again summarize the data from the observation. The teacher has read it and if the data does not support excellent rating via the Danielson Framework both the teacher and I know that. Instead of asking questions such as “How could you involve more students in the questioning and discussion?” A more appropriate reflective question might be one or more of the following:

  • How did you feel about the level of student engagement in this observation?
  • What strategies have you used in the past to engage students in the questioning and discussion?
  • What would an observation of questioning and discussion look like if 110% of the students were engaged?
  • How could you make this happen in your class?

Following this reflective conversation during which the teacher does the vast majority of the talking the observer can ask the teacher if there is anything that they have talked about concerning questioning and discussion that the teacher would feel comfortable with writing into a SMART goal? Once the teacher commits to a strategy that they are incorporating into the SMART goal, the teacher writes the SMART goal into the observational evidence and the administrator commits to returning to the classroom in the near future to see these strategies put into practice.

Sometimes teacher evaluators ask me what they should do if the teacher does not come up with strategies or suggestions. If the teacher is a first or second year teacher I consider this to be mentoring the teacher and the observer should give detailed specific recommendations. If the teacher is a veteran teacher then the observer can enter into a discussion concerning various strategies but it should be made clear to the veteran teacher that this is his/her responsibility to improve their own instruction.

In either case sited in the paragraph above, if the observer has to direct the learning then the rating according to the Danielson Frameworks would be a Level 2 or Needs Improvement. If the teacher can determine their own improvement then the observer should delay scoring the observation until the teacher has time to demonstrate the new skills.

“Reflection” With the Person Being Observed

Whether you are a principal or assistant principal evaluating a teacher or a superintendent evaluating a principal, both of these processes need time scheduled to reflect with the person being evaluated. Observations without reflection/discussion have very little value.

In the old teacher evaluation system many teacher evaluators would schedule one formal observation with the teacher. The two parties would conduct a pre- observation conference and discuss the lesson to be observed. The teacher would explain what unit he/she is teaching, what he/she hopes to have the students know and be able to do as a result of the lesson, they might discuss the learning or behavior needs of some of the students he/she has in the class and the teacher might even request that the evaluator take notes of certain aspects of his/her teaching such as equitable response opportunities, quality of questions asked or perceived engagement of the students. Then the evaluator would observe the teacher on the predetermined date and schedule a post observation conference during which the evaluator did most or all of the talking and the teacher “endured” the process.

Where is the reflection or the coaching in the above-mentioned process? Reflection is the process of the person being evaluated offering careful thoughts about their teaching. Reflective questions such as: What could I do differently? What worked well? What could I do better? What did I expect students to know and be able to perform as a result of this lesson? Did the students meet my expectations? How do I know? What do I do with the students who did not meet expectations? What do I do with the students who already knew the concept? In this reflective process the teacher asks and answers these open-ended questions and the evaluator listens and provides input when needed or appropriate. The key action for the evaluator is to listen.

After the person being observed has reflected then it is time for that person to work on a plan of action to improve their teaching. This plan should be determined by the person being evaluated and the evaluator should be a facilitator and direct the conversation toward an action goal including specific statements that can be measured and are attainable, establish a timeline for completion or checking on the goal and finally affirmation by the person being evaluated that they will follow through and the evaluator will check back on the progress. Many of you will recognize this as the SMART goal process.

The following are some procedures to follow as you reflect/coach the people you are evaluating: This is written as if the evaluator is reflecting/coaching a teacher but you could insert principal for teacher below in each strategy.

  • Listen deeply to discern the key issue and make a preliminary assessment.
  • What really is the issue?
  • What has the person previously done to improve his/her teaching?
  • In what area do you think the person needs coaching?
  • What does the person want to improve?
  • What does the person want to have happen as the result of this improvement?
  • Does the person seem committed to improving?
  • What does the observational evidence state?
  • What does the teacher think about what happened?
  • Has the teacher done anything prior to improve this action?
  • Share your views on how you think the teacher should handle this situation.
  • Explore what possibilities are available for solutions.
  • Try to get the teacher to think “outside the box” when thinking of possible solutions.
  • What specific action(s) is the teacher willing to take? By when?
  • What ongoing support is needed?
  • Listen for the person to commit.
  • Clarify the facts, separate the facts from interpretation, and share your own observations.
  • Generate possibilities.
  • Design an action plan.