I’ve had this overwhelming feeling lately that educators are being incredibly hypocritical about teacher evaluations (for a look at what I’m considering a teacher evaluation, view a sample rubric here). With our students, we strive to provide (as Hattie coined) “dollops of feedback” as a means to help students realize where they are in relation to learning targets. This feedback helps students determine what areas they’ve mastered, while helping them focus on topics that need to improve. Why don’t we do this with teacher evaluation?
Historically, education has set the stage for a dog and pony show, much like the one Stephanie Wrobleski describes in her blog here. In her post, Wrobleski points out that during the course of a school year she’ll be teaching for 3,600 hours, while being judged on two of them; one in the fall and one in the spring. She goes on to say that she’s vying for the part of “Highly Effective Teacher” in the production that will be her evaluation. Stephanie’s blog entry epitomizes our culture of evaluation; once in the fall, once in the spring, 45 minutes, aaaaaaand we’re done!
Changing the Culture of Evaluation
How then do we change the culture of evaluation?
Kim Marshall, in his article appearing in the November 2012 Phi Delta Kappan, describes a system that includes ten 5-15 minute classroom observations aimed at providing timely, face to face feedback that helps reaffirm the positives in one’s practice, but identify and develop one’s challenges. A shift from the two 45 minute “formal” observations many educators see across the country. Could you imagine if educators met with and provided feedback to students for 45 minutes, twice a year? Why do we do this with teachers?
Our model should include, as Marshall points out, frequent, unannounced, brief visits with face-to-face, timely, and honest feedback. Isn’t that what we expect from educators as it pertains to their students? In fact, he has a nice bulleted list that any principal could use to get this process going.
If we are to reform education, we must reform the way we communicate successes and challenges with educators. We need to begin looking at the teacher evaluation as a formative assessment.
Tools in the Toolbox
In addition to tackling evaluation issues, another part of my job that I love is researching and training tools that educators can use to quickly collect, discuss, and act on student assessment data. One tool that my local school districts rely heavily on is DataDirector.
Recently, administrators have been leveraging the power of DataDirector to hold quick conversations based on data – much like the conversations Marshall discusses in his article. Several districts are beginning to develop observation calendars to plan and organize these conversations. In addition, teachers and administrators have worked to develop a sets of questions that will guide their work.
While many schools have worked to develop guiding questions, there has been a disconnect between the questions asked and the tools used to collect the data. Teachers are using DataDirector to collect the data. Unfortunately, the disconnect resides in teachers’ understandings of how DataDirector’s Assessment Reports can support teachers in intentional planning for data conversations using their data.
To fill this need, the Calhoun ISD has been purposeful in framing trainings around the questions administrators expect teachers to discuss during their data conversations. For example, many districts expect teachers to be able to discuss the following questions (or variations) when it comes to student achievement data:
1. Who is progressing or on-target in their learning?
2. Who is encountering challenges in their learning?
3. What are you going to do differently as a result of your data?
4. What evidence of learning will you collect moving forward?
To assist administrators and teachers in their conversations around these questions, I have made it a point to connect these questions to specific assessment reports within DataDirector. One connection may look like this:
What are you going to do differently as a result of your data?
1. Review the School Assessment Report
2. Determine which Standard/Cluster has the highest average.
By using the same questions to discuss data each time, many educators have found that their focus on pre-built Assessment Reports is narrowed to a couple reports: the School Assessment Report and the Classroom Performance Summary Report.
The School Assessment Report is used to determine the “what” (What went well? What didn’t go well?), while the Classroom Performance Summary Report is used to determine the “who” (Who got it? Who didn’t get it?).
Both teachers and administrators need support in how to use these two reports to develop a common understanding of how the assessment data can be used to reveal what students know and to help plan for next steps in learning.
I have found that starting a training with the question “What do you expect your teachers to know and do with their data?” is a great way to uncover what expectations the administration has for their teachers. With this expectation, I can begin to tailor my training to fit the needs of the teacher as it pertains to data conversations. Our outcome is to build capacity amongst teachers and administrators to intentionally plan using their data, articulate student growth in learning, and modify instruction to meet the needs of students. Couple this with timely, frequent follow-up on the administrators’ part and educators can begin to move away from the dog and pony show towards a more embedded, authentic, and ongoing professional conversations about data and instruction.