5 ideas to make the most of teacher evaluation

2/14/2013 12:00:00 AM

There’s been a lot of news about the Gates Foundation recently released guiding principles to policymakers and practitioners who plan to implement new teacher evaluation models. If your school or district is turning toward such an evaluation model you'll want to consider some ideas to keep in mind to best support your professional growth.
But, before we get to that, If you haven't read it or need a refresher, here's a summary of their findings about teacher evaluation models. If you have read it and don't need a refresher, then skip past the summary and check out the ideas.

1 - Set Expectations
Create a set of goals, standards and language with which to communicate evaluation practices so everyone is on the same wavelength.

2 - Use Multiple Measures
Have multiple teacher observations and measure  student achievement growth at the classroom level, as well as school wide.

3 - Balance Weights
Student achievement growth should be 33 to 50 percent of overall evaluation and balanced with other factors, such as classroom observations by multiple trained and certified observers over the course of the school year, so that that different measures of performance are balanced in overall evaluations.

4 - Monitor Validity
Evaluation systems need to be evaluated too. Teachers and administrators should be reviewing measurements and methods on a regular basis and providing teachers with many opportunities to compare their observation scores, give feedback about how the evaluations are working and what they find helpful.

5 - Ensure Reliability
Have several observations of full lessons for each teacher every year.

6 - Assure Accuracy
Evaluators need to be trained and certified before evaluating a teacher.

7 - Make Meaningful Distinctions
It's important to focus on strengthening teacher practices when grouping teachers by their levels of effectiveness in various measurements.  

8 - Prioritize Support and Feedback
Learning is a lifelong process. In order to accurately measure performance and make improvements in practice, teachers need professional development, in group sessions and one-one-one sessions with fellow teachers, specialists and principals. This creates an environment where growth through feedback can enhance their classroom effectiveness.  

9 - Use Data for Decisions at All Levels
Such measurement systems can provide a wealth of data but it must be used not only to evaluate teachers but evaluate the school as a whole and how schools can better work with teachers to train, monitor and increase student achievement.

Like it or not, many schools or districts are tying funding to teacher evaluation models that incorporate these principals. If this applies to you, you'll want to be prepared with ideas to keep in mind to best support your professional growth. Here are five.

5 ideas to support professional growth

1- Include students and parents

Include students and parents in the process by discussing ways in which the evaluation can help them achieve success. 

2 - Request support from your Principal

In an Education World article Principal Michael Miller says he has "look-for" meetings with teachers. In these meetings they sit down and speak candidly about instruction and a specific area of focus on which the teacher is working. Take this time to share with your Principal how s/he can help you meet learning goals. This is a perfect opportunity to request things like technology, software, instructional materials or ask to attend professional development or to receive more common planning time.

3 - Use technology to support your efforts
Determine how technology can support your work. For example schools across the nation have made large investments in iPads. Principals like Chris Lehmann have come up with homegrown solutions that use iPads to support the observation process. Schools implementing education philanthropist Lowell Milken’s evaluation system support teachers being observed with the TAP app for iPad which allows teachers to import photos from class into categories and  track and organize lessons based on assessment measurements.

4 - Speak up
Evaluation should not only be a top-down process. Respond to feedback, vocalize struggles and concerns, discuss challenges, request and document the support you need to be most effective, and share and celebrate success. Ensure your responses and actions are added to the evaluation.

5 - Differentiate learning
Innovative educators know students learn most effectively when we differentiate learning in ways that enable them to draw upon their personal strengths and talents. Use this knowledge to motivate students to achieve their learning goals.

So, what do you think when it comes to teacher evaluation? What’s working in your school? What’s not working? What ideas do you have for using evaluation to support your professional growth? What are some things to watch out for so that evaluation doesn’t interfere with your professional growth?

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

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