New Teacher Evaluations: A Road Map to Great Teaching
I’m teaching a training class for teachers about the best way to give students feedback, and it dawns on me: When do teachers get the type of formative feedback that we strive to give our students? We talk about kids needing specific, timely feedback in order to improve. Don’t teachers need this feedback as well?
In Washington state, where I live, a new day is coming – a day when teachers will receive concrete, specific information on how they can improve. In my mind, our state’s new teacher evaluation system is a road map to great teaching.
Here’s my past experience, as an elementary teacher, with evaluation. An evaluator would come in, observe, write up the notes, and give them to me. These notes basically consisted of a “top-down” list of what went well in my lesson and what I could improve. I would then return to my classroom, no more empowered to change my practice than before the evaluation.
Washington’s new teacher evaluation system encourages self-assessment, reflection on practice, and professional discussion. Through conversation, teachers will have the opportunity to enlighten the evaluator on the context of the lesson and their class. Then together, the teacher and evaluator can identify the teacher’s strengths and areas for growth, and map out a professional learning plan. Instead of a formal assessment, this approach is a dialogue.
Once a professional learning plan is in place, Success at the Core resources can be very helpful. As an instructional coach in my school, I have observed my principal pilot the new teacher evaluation system with three of my colleagues. As the teachers and principal de-briefed the classroom observations, some amazing conversations occurred, and teachers emerged from these meetings with at least one instructional practice they’d like to improve. As a coach, I then have the opportunity to work with these teachers, and I find myself recommending Success at the Core tools again and again.
Once a teacher really digs into the minutia of teacher evaluation requirements, they will likely see an area they would like to focus. I point teachers to Teacher Development strategies most aligned with their identified growth areas. In addition to showing an instructional practice “in action,” these strategies include instructional plans, student work, teacher commentary, and more. To help teachers with their specific target areas, I’ve created a document that aligns Washington’s teacher evaluation criteria and Charlotte Danielson’s instructional framework with some SaC resources. These resources can help teachers on their individual improvement journeys. You can access the alignment document here.
Rarely can principals/evaluators keep up with the variety of tools available to assist teachers with improving their practice. The evaluation – and debrief conversation – is a motivator, an igniter. Success at the Core materials can then offer teachers examples of how others have implemented effective instructional strategies. Teachers are the ultimate learners IF they are engaged in activities that promote learning.
As you reflect on your own path to improved teaching, what other tools and resources have been the most beneficial to you?