Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Evaluations Should be an Annual Vitamin

I remember being told at my first job,  "Evaluations are valuable, because they point out what you do well and how you can grow.  Consider them a vitamin for your soul."  I was 14, and my evaluator was a camp director, evaluating my ability to relate to kids, my peers, and my content knowledge in the area of camp skills. While I didn't agree with all she had to say, her words and her method of looking for evidence with rubrics seems valuable thirty years later.

Why is this so hard for the education community to grasp?  What is it about this conversation that is so difficult in Iowa?  I'll admit that the current dog-and-pony binder that makes up the Charlotte Danielson  model for Iowa teachers is not that arduous, but it's not that effective for a career level teacher, either.   I can see the value of this type of evaluation for a teacher in the first few probationary years, but Iowa teachers should have something different beyond that.

And I enjoy completing my Individual Career Development Plan, because its the place where I can experience additional growth in a manner that matches personal goals.   But I can also see how some people would like to jettison this part of the evaluation, as it can be completed within hours--just another report to write and for the administrator to sign off on.

So how do we redo this system?   I know what I'd like to see, and it is not a once-every-three-year show; but it also is not meant to be bigger, longer, and more difficult for administrators.   Hey, let's look for simplicity:
  • a student evaluation of the teacher.  This is standard practice in most colleges, so why not ask kids?   Survey monkey or google forms can make this less arduous to compile.
  • a personal reflection on a videotaped lesson with my administrator.   I'm not necessarily convinced that I need to have a 10 page written paper, ala NBCT, but I do need to talk about what I am good at and what I think I'm working on.   I would think that an evaluator could schedule one of these per week in about an hour, and it would be less cumbersome than the 5 page narratives that accompany my current 3 year evaluations.   A standard rubric could be used for this purpose.
  • evidence of personal growth and learning for the year using my ICDP framework and my efforts to grow professsionally.  This could be a myriad of things:  presentations to colleagues, authentic intellectual work, Japanese lesson study, work with the science writing heuristic, KU notetaking strategies, tech integration, STEM integration.   Since most districts are already meeting in PLCs, this allows for peer conversation that focuses on the strengths and efforts of the teachers.   A rubric would again be able to highlight the strengths of the teacher, but the documentation in the personnel file would be the current IDCP report.
  • evidence of assessment for and of learning.   Here again I would say this discussion is work of the PLC and a necessary component of RTI that will be helpful as we identify and help all learners.  A database of sorts is a necessary artifact of this process, and one that will naturally follow RTI implementation.
  • a culture of wanting to learn and get better.   Frankly, I don't know how to measure this.  But I know that it will be reflected in the way teachers, parents, admin, and community treat their kids, as well as how they interact with one another.  It's a sense that says,  "we do this for the kids, we want to keep learning, and we'll do whatever it takes."  I do know that if educators can't do this, we need an exit strategy for those teachers, not a long-developed tenure system. When we focus on anything else:  personal glory, living through our children, feeding our need for kudos, or believing that one subgroup matters more than another, we set our children up for failure.   We all know we do this at some point ...we just hope that we can quickly get re-energized and regain our passion.  
What are your ideas about how to evaluate teachers, administrators, and the effectiveness of the job we do?  Are we headed in the right direction with the Iowa Ed Blueprint?  I'd love to hear about it on the QuickTopic below.

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