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The belief that standardized test scores are the most viable means that can be used to determine student learning, is so deeply rooted in our psyche that we have embraced the practice of evaluating teachers of non-tested subjects based on the results of subjects that they do not teach. This should be scandalous; especially given that this practice negates the main goal of evaluation systems, which is to hold teachers' accountable for student performance based on what they teach.
The Tennessee Fine Arts Growth Measure System brightens the prospect that this practice would eventually cease. This System incorporates students' portfolios and peer reviews to gauge teacher effectiveness. As Tracy McNelly notes, portfolios focus on teacher demonstration, professional development and teacher assessment. Together, these factors provide a more complete picture of a teacher's performance. Also, the use of peer reviews provides an opportunity to bring about true education reform by helping to create an evaluation structure that deviates from and that holds more promise than traditional evaluations systems in terms of effectively capturing and determining how a teacher’s professional growth influences student achievement.
In addition to providing a more comprehensive look at a teacher’s performance, portfolios and peer reviews are in line with the much lauded 21st century skills. Portfolios are authentic artifacts that are better suited than standardized test scores for illustrating, creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, decision-making and learning. Similarly, peer reviews require communication and collaboration. As such, the use of these two tools helps to exemplify what is meant by “teaching is an art.” Furthermore, using portfolios and peer reviews also help to restore the humanity into evaluation systems that have become far too mechanical, subjecting all those involved; school leaders, teachers and students to mind numbing activities.
Perhaps this is an opportunity for educators to act on Craig Mertler’s call for courageous educators. In this case, the call is for educators to speak up about this practice of evaluating teachers of non-tested subjects on subjects and for students that they do not teach. It is a practice that diminishes recognition for the contributions that teachers make equipping their students with the knowledge and skills that they need for future success.
It's one week into the school year and the literacy PD plan has been launched. Summer readings are done, classroom routines are developing. The readers' workshop is up and running! We're on the right path. But there's always a challenge when we set a plan into action, we get busy and lose focus. It's similar to the resolutions we set for the new year. We tell ourselves this is the year I'll lose 10 pounds, this is the year I'll cut down that credit card debt, this is the year that I'll run the NYC marathon. Great goals....but without reflection you'll never meet your intention. So let's take a moment to reflect about the purpose of reflection (every pun intended). It's with good intention that we set goals, right? We often hear people say, oh, she had every good intention.....meaning, she meant to do something but she didn't. But without reflection there's no point of intention. I know, I know....let me make this real! I intend to develop best practices in the area of reading workshop with my colleagues. Why? So students become skilled, critical thinking readers. I set the intention, I took the first step and outlined a plan, provided professional readings, had teacher team discussions, and started observing in classrooms. The goal is concrete, the intention has been set but if I don't stop and reflect, there's no point to it all! Teaching IS reflective practice. If it's not, then it's just a lot of "wah, wah, wah," think Charlie Brown. It becomes a whole lot of talking at kids, depositing information, requesting students to complete tasks, and so on and so on. And come on, we don't really believe our students are empty vessels do we? No, so we set our intentions, make a plan, and take the time to reflect because we want our students to thrive in the classroom, to feel challenged. We want to be the best professional we can be, we want to challenge ourselves as practitioners to study, learn, and reflect!
The theme of this opening week is reflection on the intention. Am I following the plan? Am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing? Could I do it better? I challenge everyone one of us to take a moment after this first week to reflect! To remind yourself of your teaching intention. Examine the plan you created and applaud yourself for those things you accomplished this week. Reflect on what didn't work and fine tune it. Intention, planning, reflection. This is the formula for best practices.
When rolling out a new curriculum, it is important to create a stimulating learning environment that enables teachers to visualize how various components work together to form the whole and to equip them with implementation know-how. Four factors must be considered in order to do this effectively: goal setting, an overview, lesson plan and evaluation.
Goal Setting: Though it might seem a “given” that the expected goal for introducing a new curriculum is that teachers are able to use the curriculum to promote student achievement, it is important to state this and to attach some sort of measure that will demonstrate how concepts are used and what results are evident. Stating expectations explicitly motivates teachers to work purposefully.
The Overview: This consists of a “brief” summary of the curriculum components (using segment headings for instance) that helps to ease teachers into the program. However, be creative and go beyond using a bulleted PowerPoint to introduce the overview. For instance, use an opener (a start-up activity that relates to what will be covered). One such example is to have teachers match the different components to summaries. This helps to get teachers thinking about the content of the curriculum.
The Structure: It is always tempting to take information provided by vendors and use them as is but this is one of the least effective ways to present a new curriculum. It often engenders boredom and tiredness. Consider other means. For instance, dissect the information in a way that allows for the curriculum structure to be juxtaposed to lesson plan items. Doing this enhances teachers’ visualization and contextual understanding. It demonstrates more clearly how the different components of the curriculum work as a whole. And, an added benefit of using this strategy is that the planning required to create the juxtaposition is likely to cement the understanding of the individuals who are responsible for introducing the curriculum.
The Lesson Plan: Begin with a graphic organizer that shows the flow of the lesson with brief descriptions of lesson segments. Employ an actual lesson to move teachers along the flow but use a presentation method that is engaging, (solicits teacher participation) mixed (multimedia, role play) but balanced (not too much of either method). For instance, introduce each lesson segment with a lecturette, show a video or do a role play. When teachers move along the flow, have them record questions, and or concerns that will be addressed at the end of the flow cycle. These questions and concerns are useful in identifying possible barriers to proper transfer of knowledge and implementation in the classroom.
Evaluate: Teachers started out without knowing the curriculum and without knowing how to use it. Can they now implement the curriculum after going through the process described above? The measurement/s established during goal setting is to be used for this purpose.
Scrolling through a PowerPoint of “ready-made” material is convenient and faster. However, using some creativity as proposed herein is more likely to produce positive long-term results.
It is what teachers do all the time and it is a great way to replace hodgepodge professional development planning with professional developing planning that is effective: begin with a baseline; provide support; and evaluate.
Begin with a baseline: What do teachers need in order to continue to grow professionally and to enhance student achievement? How do these needs relate to the school’s goals? Anwering these questions require two things. One is teacher reflection that determines where the teacher is and what she wishes to improve, or, add to her instructional toolbox. The other is having an honest conversation with the school leadership about how the teacher’s needs are linked to the school’s goals. This information is recorded by both parties as part of the teacher’s professional development plan.
If the school plans to introduce new iniatives, it is a good idea to ask the teacher if and what she knows about these initiatives. Responses will provide further insights to the type of professional development opportunities that would be useful. Also, a good way to ensure that all teachers are interviewed is to list meetings on the school’s internal planning tool.
Evaluation criteria are established during this step and are based on the questions posed earlier. Hence, enhancement of teacher practice, student achievement, and impact on the schoolwide community are factors that are measured. These factors typify Danielson’s framework domain one (planning and preparation), domain three (instruction), and four (professional responsibilities), respectively.
Provide Support: As noted earlier, recorded goals and responses to questions about initiatives are great sources to use to plan appropriate, group and differentiated professional development. In addition to providing internal professional development opportunities, school leadership should also consider allowing teachers to attend external professional development sessions during school hours. However, in keeping with the effort to create an effective professional development plan, these sessions should also be included as part of the school’s internal planning tool to ensure a smooth transition of instructional changes that are needed in the teacher’s absence.
Additionally, teachers are to be encouraged, after a reasonable time has passed, to share what they have learned, what challenges they faced when implementing new learning, how implementation affects their practice and urged to provide a demonstration for their peers. And, they are to be recognized for their efforts and accomplishments.
Evaluate: Now that goals have been set in accordance with teachers’ and the school’s needs and a support base has been established, evaluation can take place. How has the professional development that teachers have engaged in enhanced practice, student achievement and the school community as a whole? The criteria established during goal setting are used to conduct the evaluation that will help to answer this question.
One other area that is often overlooked but that must also be evaluated is the process. How effective has the process been in promoting professional development? This can be determined by using feedback from teachers together with implementation results.
This approach of using a baseline to meet specific needs, providing support by making it possible for teachers to practice and share what they learn and evaluating to determine the value of professional development, is simple but useful for promoting a healthy environment for effecting growth in teaching and learning.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
Scenario: the principal hires a consultant to observe teachers. The consultant observes one teacher and reports to the principal. Dissatisfied with the consultant's findings, the principal storms into the teacher's classroom and yells at her while informing her that she is displeased with the consultant’s report. The teacher learns for the first time that she has not met expectations for the past four months. The teacher is in tears. Knowledge of the incident spreads throughout the school.
Could the principal have handled the situation differently? Daniel Goleman’s framework for Emotional Intelligence (EI) is instructive in this regard. (EI) refers to the ability to perceive, to control and to evaluate one’s emotions. Goleman's framework consists of five elements, which when employed, can result in more effective leadership and a higher level of managerial prowess. The five elements are:
1. 1. self-awareness - being aware of your emotion
2. 2. self- regulation - controlling emotions and impulses
3. 3. motivation - reason for acting in a particular way/willingness to do something
4. 4. empathy - understanding others emotions
5. 5. social skills - how one communicates with others
Here is how these elements might play out with regard to the scenario described above.
First, the principal embraces how she feels when she receives the consultant's feedback (self-awareness). Pausing to acknowledge her feelings helps restrain the desire to rush immediately to speak to the teacher (self-regulation).
Next comes self-questioning; what gave rise to the feelings? Given that the principal knew of the teacher's poor performance months before receiving the consultant's report, are the feelings more a result of guilt from not intervening to assist the teacher earlier than of discontent with the teacher's performance, or due to another matter that is unrelated to the teacher? Why the teacher was not given help the first time the principal realized that her performance was poor? What can be done to prevent this from happening again (motivation)? Such questioning moves the principal to examine her managerial and leadership practices.
The final step is damage control. Keeping in mind that the entire school is now aware of the incident and that such knowledge can affect morale, what can the principal do to counter this possibility? Having done her introspection the principal can now have an honest conversation with the teacher. One in which she (a) acknowledges her shortcomings in terms of lack of support and the manner in which she conveyed her views about the teacher’s performance (b) states her willingness to hear about and from the teacher regarding her performance and (c) conveys in a positive, non-threatening manner what she expects from the teacher (empathy and social skills).
Of course, putting the “self” on the spot in this way is not easy to do but doing so promotes an enduring self-development. However, using EI to ensure effective leadership and management, is highly dependent on whether the principal views her role as that of a sole proprietor, or, as a member of a cooperative. If it is the latter, then EI would be embraced.
Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Bantam Books: New York.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum, or join the ASCD Forum group on ASCD EDge.
It is often said that teachers teach the way that they themselves were taught. That they should be cognizant of this and filter their teaching practice to exclude ineffective strategies, strengthen the positive aspects and be opened to new ways of teaching. Likewise, our “educational worldview” determines what type of teacher evaluation system we embrace. Hence, here too, we need to examine our worldview so that we can shift our thinking and practice to exclude negative impacts, strengthen what works well and embrace innovative systems.
Worldview could be described as a set of fundamental beliefs that governs a society’s culture in terms of norms, value systems and ways of living. Writers Richard Gabriel and Richard Allington contend that the United States educational worldview is chiefly defined by test scores and that this focus is what influences the popular practice of using test scores to determine teacher effectiveness. Others echo the same view.
For instance, Peterson’s (2000) observes that despite the varied types of evaluation documentation that have been proposed, standardized test scores have matured as the primary measure used to determine student achievement mainly because of a prevailing public view that teacher learning should result in student achievement and also because tests are less costly to produce than tests that seek to measure complex skills such as critical thinking. He joined Danielson and McGreal (2000) in denouncing the use of standardized test scores as the exclusive/primary unit used to measure student achievement. Additionally, Stiggins (2002) argues that most of the standardized tests only determine the status of learning rather than promote learning and that this does not measure how students’ learning is affected during the process. And perhaps above all else, the emphasis on accountability has been heightened by the No Child Left Behind Law of 2001 and the Race to the Top initiative of 2009. Both have catapulted test scores to preeminence on the measurement side of the teacher evaluation scale.
These are some of the same criticisms that we hear today about the role of standardized test scores when we consider whether teacher evaluation systems should emphasize measurement or development. Have we fallen victim to what Edward Hall, author of Beyond Culture refers to as being stuck with the program that culture imposes? In other words, have we internalized this belief in test scores as the only true valid and reliable form of measuring teacher effectiveness so deeply that we are blind to any other options?
In his article, “A Tale of Two Districts,” Mark Simon notes that the education bureaucracy has a proclivity to embrace teacher evaluation systems that use test scores to sort, rank and rate teachers as oppose to embracing systems that focus on promoting professional growth. Perhaps agreements such as the initial agreement between the New York City Teachers Union and the New York City Department of Education to not have test scores predominate the teacher evaluation system, portends well for the movement towards a balanced approach that consists of both measurement and development. Indeed, the findings of the final research of the Measure of Effective Teaching (MET) project, evidences to some extent that a balanced approach is the best strategy for determining teacher effectiveness.
What gets included on both sides of the scale and in what measure, will have to be worked out. However, doing so with an understanding of the underlying assumptions formed by our educational worldview and being open to try different/new strategies means that we stand a chance to put together evaluation systems that will promote effective teaching and learning.
Danielson, C., & McGreal, T. (2000). Teacher evaluation to enhance professional practice. Alxeandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Hall, E. T. (1989). Beyond Culture. New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday
Gabriel, R., Allington, R. (2012). The MET Project: The Wrong $45 Million Question. Educational Leadership, 70(3), 44.
Patton, M. Q. (1997). In (Ed.), Utilized-focused evaluation: the new century text (3rd ed.,)
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication Inc.
Peterson, K. D. (2000). Teacher evaluation: A comprehensive guide to new directions and
practices (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Simon, M. (2012). A Tale of Two Districts. Educational Leadership, 70(3), 58.
Stiggins, R. J. (2002). Assessment crisis: the absence of assessment for learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(10), 758-765.