Our teachers across the country are hurting. After having endured one of the toughest years our education system has seen, the need to support teachers in their craft is even more urgent.
I have long discussed with teachers and educational leaders about the need to rethink our teacher evaluation practices in schools and districts across the nation. For full disclosure, I lead a school where I too am required to meet evaluation practices that are what I would consider ineffective.
However, I still believe that I should share my thoughts on the subject, and discuss how I view evaluation for my teachers.
My Belief About Evaluation
I believe that teachers are professionals. I believe that evaluative practices need to treat them as such. I believe that our evaluation systems need to focus on building teachers up, as opposed to giving measures on metrics that are often too specific and lose their meaning in the art of teaching.
Return on Investment
Each of my teachers is an investment for my school. Teachers are the most important investment that a school or district can make.
With my investment in them, I expect a return (effective pedagogical practices in the classroom). However, it is my responsibility as the leader in the building to grow my investment.
Current evaluative practices across the nation do not help grow teachers. Evaluative practices are too often about assigning a measure to our teachers for growth scores, pay bonuses, etc…
So, What Does My System Look Like?
Let me start with our evaluation system, based on Marzano high yield strategies. These metrics are too specific to provide effective feedback to improve instruction. I use this system to evaluate teachers on the minimum requirements set by our district. I make our time in evaluation meaningful and score the metrics that I have available to me. But, that is it.
When possible, I put teachers in a position to have successful outcomes on their yearly evaluation.
The important work in our building comes from a system of feedback that we have built internally. Our Classroom Walkthrough Protocol is used for classroom visits outside of our required evaluation visits. It is built on the Google platform and customized to help provide feedback to teachers that will help grow our investment.
As our schools strategic plan changes, our Classroom Walkthrough Protocol changes. Our investments grow.
This is what it looks like…
I walk a teacher’s classroom and on my device I pull up our Classroom Walkthough Protocol. (I use this form regardless of how long I am in their classroom.) This is the form that we use in our building, which is shared with teachers anytime changes are made.
It is specific to the work that we are engaged in to grow our teachers. For us, that is inquiry-driven learning and a focus on student ownership in the learning. Our current system focuses on conversations with students in answering our “focus questions” as much as it is focused on what the teacher is doing.
We always close with Feedback/Reflection Questions. Our staff knows and understands that this is a safe, non-evaluative space – where feedback can often be specific, focused – and sometimes critical – but always accompanied with supportive next steps.
We often frame our most critical conversations in the form of questions. For example, if five students in the back of the room are disengaged in the lesson we could deliver our observation as, “There were five students who were disengaged in the lesson. The expectation is that students are engaged in the lesson at all times.”
However, this would not be as effective as framing the feedback as such, “I noticed that there were five students who were off task in the learning activity. I wonder if there are some strategies that we can implement that can help students engage, more specifically how to keep them from being distracted by their cell phones? How can I help to support?”
We believe that when there are areas for growth in the classroom that I am equally responsible for the improvements to be made.
Our Classroom Walkthrough Protocol provides immediate feedback to our teachers. Meaning, as soon as I walk out the door and click submit – our system takes our data and merges it into a PDF that is emailed directly to the teacher.
If we have practices that need to be improved, we believe that our teachers need this feedback immediately – to grow our investment.
The result of this system are one where teachers follow up and engage in informal conversations about improving their practice with me after their feedback – even though this is not the expectation. We are able to have very productive conversations about improvement even after critical feedback.
Our teachers need more. They need more from their schools and districts. We need to change our mindset to give our teachers what they need when it comes to evaluation. And – when necessary – create a system that lives outside of evaluation that better supports our teacher’s needs.
Michael Meechin provides support to schools and districts through speaking engagements, leadership workshops, and consultancy focused on any of the topics discussed in this post. You can book Mike or learn more about how Mike can help your school or district here.