Honest Evaluation to Support Good Teaching

Teachers deserve honest feedback on how they’re doing. Part 2

Posted Jun 24, 2019

As covered in the Part 1 companion to this article, teachers deserve honest feedback on how they’re doing. This second installment on this topic covers additional steps to providing teachers with honest feedback and support. The article opens with some remaining basics on how remote classroom observations can function within a teacher evaluation system.

4: Provide Feedback.

Observation feedback very clearly identifies areas for needed improvement at the teacher, site, and district levels. It also identifies teachers who scored well in each area so they can serve as mentors to share (in person or by the original video) their approaches with colleagues. Every teacher thus has site- or district-based experts as an added resource to help them improve in specific areas. In the spirit of Learning Forward’s Prerequisite for Effective Professional Learning #3, more successful teachers help their colleagues as part of a collaborative unit. The system celebrates teacher successes and promotes the spread of good teaching.

5: Protect Privacy.

Jenny Rankin, used with permission
Source: Jenny Rankin, used with permission

Teacher-specific data is used to provide feedback to teachers, and each teacher’s results are only made available to that specific teacher and the administrators who support him or her. The goal is to assist teachers as professionals, not to embarrass or insult them. Only site- and district-specific data are shared and discussed openly across a site or district. Poor teacher, site, or district performance is met with increased support of that entity in identified areas, placing non-teachers in the role of the observed (based on data aggregated at the site or district level) and thus in a similar position as teachers.

6: Offer Support.

The district can then proceed in the same ways recommended for other evaluation models (e.g., praise specific successes, offer support when and where needed, follow up on an ongoing basis, etc.). However, all staff will have the added benefit of observation-related resources. For example, remember the instructional videos showing master teachers in action, which were mentioned earlier.

Other professional learning tools can also be shared in the same location, organized by evaluation tool topic. For example, if Behavioral Management was an evaluation area in which a teacher scored low, he or she could peruse resources in a Behavioral Management webpage of the district’s evaluation site within its staff portal. In addition to videos showing effective classroom management, the page could suggest books and articles, within-district mentors (who excel in this area) with their contact information or means for visiting their classrooms, ways to connect with Special Education staff who can help the teacher understand behavior disorders, free classes the teacher could take, online support networks devoted to improving student behavior, and more. If the district utilizes a learning management system (LMS), note such resources can often be stored there, as well.

Remember: remote observation should be just one evaluation component, as evaluation elements mentioned earlier should also be considered. Nonetheless, consider how this single component would bypass the common evaluation pitfalls mentioned earlier. For example:

Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students uses a variety of sources and types of student, educator, and system data to plan, assess, and evaluate professional learning.

More than Test Data

Teacher evaluations are inadequate if they rely only on test data. Judging any stakeholder’s performance solely based on test scores is wrong for educators and wrong for students. In addition, using only one measurement to gage teacher effectiveness violates Learning Forward’s Data Standard for Professional Learning, which stipulates using a variety of sources to evaluate professional learning, which is a key aspect of teacher quality.

No Child Left Behind showed us the pitfalls of non-growth score accountability, but even value-added measurement (VAM) trends and growth scores are not without problems. The teacher who is a superstar with English Learners and thus welcomes many into her classroom mid-year can look like her class’s scores dropped. At lower grade levels, the teacher who has mastered “drill and kill” instruction looks great on paper but sends his kids off to the next grade unable to tackle abstract thinking and open-ended problem solving. In honors classes, students entering at the advanced level cannot show improvement and contribute to an impression performance dropped in those classes.

Jenny Rankin, used with permission
Source: Jenny Rankin, used with permission

Simply put, test scores are a valuable dataset. However, they should be one of many in use, as there are too many additional variables at play to hold educators solely responsible for scores. Thus what is observed in the classroom – and reported back with accuracy and support in a remote model – becomes especially vital.

More Honest & Accurate Feedback

Administrators are often misleading when evaluating teachers. According to the New York Times, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “Far, far too few teachers receive honest feedback on what they’re doing” (Rich, 2012, p. A19). Other sources report the same.

Jenny Rankin, used with permission
Source: Jenny Rankin, used with permission

An administrator about to ask a teacher to chaperone a dance and teach a challenging intervention class after school might dishonestly tell that teacher his inadequate instruction is satisfactory. An administrator who is a wiz with the budget, technology, and discipline but never mastered teaching higher-order thinking skills is not the best person to mentor teachers in this respect. An administrator devoting every waking moment to ridding her school of gangs has not read the latest research from which her staff’s classroom questioning strategies could benefit. Thus teachers get the poor feedback of which Duncan spoke. Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students occurs within learning communities committed to continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and goal alignment.

This conflict of interests violates Learning Forward’s Learning Communities Standard for Professional Learning, which stipulates the need for goal alignment in order to have effective professional learning, which teacher evaluations are supposed to support. Yet educators who are not based at a teacher’s site, and who are experienced as supreme teachers and learned in the best practices research can offer, can observe teachers and then provide them with honest and effective feedback. This feedback serves as a fundamental component of observation-based evaluation.

What’s Next?

In the Part 3 companion to this article, we will explore additional steps to providing teachers with honest feedback and support.

References

Rich, M. (2012, October 15). Seeking aid, school districts change teacher evaluations. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/education/seeking-aid-more-districts-change-teacher-evaluations.html?pagewanted=all

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