The teacher evaluation process has been at the forefront of many policy conversations over the past decade, and the underlying assumption resonates just as much today as it did ten years ago: the quality of the classroom teacher is the most important school-level factor that impacts student achievement. As school leaders, we must bring this assumption to life by creating a culture of teacher learning in our schools. Below are two important ways school leaders can help the teacher evaluation process become a robust and meaningful conversation that promotes professional growth and continuous improvement of professional practices.
Align Professional Development and Teacher Evaluation
Just like the need for student feedback to be aligned to standards and learning targets in the classroom, the supervision and evaluation of teachers should be aligned to professional development at both the school and district level. Research shows that this connection can be achieved through focused professional development planning, frequent classroom observations and feedback, and open communication about teacher goals. Meaningful teacher goals developed by the teacher within a larger professional development focus can help foster ownership and create a culture where teachers are leaders of their own learning.
Here are a few questions to consider as you reflect on the alignment of professional development and teacher evaluation in your school:
- What is the professional development focus for the school year? How did you communicate this focus with your teachers?
- When observing teachers, are you able to easily align your feedback with topics or concepts within the professional development focus?
- What is the process for teachers to develop their professional goals for the school year? Do teachers have the opportunity to identify their own areas of growth or areas for goal setting? Do teachers often choose goals that align with the professional development focus for the school year?
- How would teachers describe the connection between teacher evaluation and professional development?
Use Learning Logs to Create a Conversation
Part of the challenge in aligning professional development is that the actual documents often live in different places. The teacher evaluation process includes feedback forms, rubrics, and goal-setting documents that are completely independent of professional development notes, closures, and reflection questions. One way to support teacher growth is to streamline the alignment between the teacher evaluation process and professional development by using a single document that captures both: a learning log.
A learning log is a shared document (between teacher and evaluator) that houses teacher goals as well as reflections, notes, and takeaways from professional development and classroom observation feedback in one place. Many districts and states have progressed even further by creating a teacher evaluation online portal where teachers and evaluators log in to a shared system to collaborate and document steps throughout the process. Either approach essentially creates a digital space that connects teacher evaluation and professional development in a way that supports both a digital dialogue and an ongoing instructional conversation. This collaborative approach further aligns teacher evaluation and professional development to create a culture of continuous improvement.
As you plan for teacher evaluation in your school this year, challenge yourself to brainstorm ways to align the process with professional development. The teacher evaluation process can be a powerful tool to improve instruction and support teacher growth when it is an ongoing conversation about teaching and learning. How are you going to leverage the teacher evaluation process to foster a culture of professional learning?
Andrea Smith is Principal of Lyons Middle Senior High School in St. Vrain Valley Schools in Lyons, CO. She is the 2018 Colorado Assistant Principal of the Year. Follow her on Twitter (@SmithSVVSD).