Teacher evaluation has been a reform topic of late as policies at the state and national levels further require schools to rate teachers and even include student achievement data in evaluations. These efforts seem to be the result of the perception that there are many poor teachers who are allowed to continue in the profession with no recourse. I think this perception is greatly exaggerated, although like in any profession, there are certainly individuals who are under-performing.
As a principal, it is part of my job to evaluate teachers. And, in alignment with state requirements for this process, part of my job is to rate teachers against “research-based, proven performance targets.” Our district created a system to align to the state requirements, and I am doing my best to implement it in a way that can be as effective as possible. When it comes time to actually ‘rate’ a teacher, I explain that while the rating process is imperfect, it is an opportunity for reflection and only represents my perspective in collaboration with the teacher being evaluated.
But when I consider all of the strategies that are available for teacher growth, performance ratings are not at the top of my list. I believe there are so many other ways teachers can learn and grow. Most importantly, teachers with greater ownership of their own professional learning will seek the kind of feedback that leads to growth. In this type of environment, teachers would be empowered and inspired to achieve, and even expand, their own potential.
1. Collaboration- Teachers meet with other teachers, especially ones who teach the same curriculum to discuss student learning, plan for instruction, and review student work.
2. Classroom visits- Since becoming a principal, the opportunity to frequently visit classrooms and observe great teachers doing their work has been perhaps the most powerful learning experience I've had as an educator. We need to do more to give teachers the opportunities to visit other teacher’s classrooms.
3. Student feedback surveys- These surveys would be used to inform the teacher’s own practice and not for evaluation. Great teachers have the ability to see the classroom through students’ eyes. Surveys can be another way to inform teachers about what students’ are experiencing. This example survey is just one possibility. Ideas for surveys can be readily found online.
4. Video- Every high school football game (and other sports for that matter) is videotaped and examined for every possible opportunity to improve. And yet it is rare that teachers use video to reflect on their own teaching. I would challenge teachers to occasionally record a lesson.
5. Goal setting- When teachers set their own goals it has far greater power to impact learning than goals that are set at the building or district level.
6. Reading- We can stay current and evaluate new ideas in the profession by reading books, articles, blogs, etc.
7. Develop your PLN- Establishing a PLN (personal learning network) allows every educator to have a team of educators from whom to learn and grow. My PLN rocks and has been a source of excellent professional learning.
8. Peer Coaching- We are blessed to have instructional coaches in our building who provide feedback to teachers, facilitating the efforts of other teachers as they move towards a goal. Consulting and mentoring can also be helpful.
9. Teacher-led professional development- Instead of bringing an outside consultant to lead professional development, this method has teachers develop learning experiences for their colleagues. When possible, it’s best to offer teachers choices for the sessions most relevant to their goals.