Grading Teachers Gets Smarter
Fewer topics inflame a conversation about the state of education than that of analyzing teacher job performance. Politics aside, the debate on how best to do it is still a sticky wicket. Some popular recent methods have moved to value-added evaluations, including statistical models that use summative, mandated testing data to track teacher performance. Others use student achievement to measure educator job performance. However, research on these kinds of evaluation systems shows little effect on teacher performance and student learning.
What we do know is that emerging technologies have brought improved options to the traditional canned lesson evaluations. One current trend gaining some traction is the use of blogs, such as Edublog, Blogger, and Teacher Blog. Teachers set goals by using the blog with their evaluator to reflect and discuss practice, implement training, and alter instructional strategies. The blogs help teachers and their supervisors facilitate more meaningful conversations.
My Learning Plan and Cornerstone are good examples of Web-based educator evaluation and professional learning data management solutions for the observation and evaluation process. Both programs have features that enable teachers to set and then reflect on their goals. A built-in evaluation form provides an effective model template to help guide evaluators.
Peer-to-peer observations using tools like iObservation are gaining some traction in districts looking for a tech-based evaluation device that directly ties to state teaching standards. Teachers participate in and reflect on what they observe with their colleagues. This also allows teachers to have their observations, classroom walk-throughs, and peer observations in one easily accessible, online location.
With any new initiative, it’s important to consider the elements of change that help frame the effort. As a district moves towards using technology tools in the evaluation process, consider Kurt Lewin’s three steps in the change process: unfreezing, change, and refreezing (see diagram). Districts can work toward “refreezing” teacher behaviors by using tech tools that create meaningful change—to focus on learning rather than “competence.”
The need for change must be clearly established and new practices must be supported through ongoing professional development. By providing teachers with assessment models that provide support, rather than anxiety, school leaders can offer an environment that sustains effective teacher performance and student learning.
Lisa M. Gonzales is the superintendent of Portola Valley School District (CA). Charles Young is the associate superintendent, Palo Alto USD (CA). They will be speaking at California Tech Forum on January 17, 2014.