Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Are The Keys to Measuring the Effectiveness of Individual Teachers and Principals?

Colorado passed SB191 (pdf) which requires the state and school district to come up with new (and presumably better) ways to evaluate teachers and administrators. Here is the question that my district is currently trying to answer:
What do you believe are the keys to measuring the effectiveness of individual teachers and principals?
I put the question out on Twitter and got quite a few good responses, but I thought I'd post it here as well to make it easier to post a more-than-140-character-at-a-time response. Please keep in mind this is not theoretical, my district has to come up with and implement this plan, and it will be used for evaluating teachers and administrators.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. The thing is, I just really have no idea.....

    I feel so much of evaluations are checkboxes and paperwork compliance instead of focussing on product.

    One thing I would hope is that you fight the urge to create a generic one size fits all evaluation document. A band director has a very different classroom than a guidance counselor or a physics teacher.

  2. I had commented on Twitter that there needs to be an array of indicators on which 'data' is gathered/assessed based on processes and practices that are based on evidence of effectiveness - effectiveness in terms of student and adult learning and in terms of creating and maintaining a culture in which all can grow and in which all are valued. I think too often "outcomes" are measured - and those outcomes do not adequately represent what is most important. I think the work of Fullan in his Six Secrets of Change and Pfeffer & Sutton in the Knowing-Doing Gap are great sources to use to develop evaluation tools. To sum it up - there need to be clear descriptors of what effective practice (instruction, assessment, culture, etc) LOOKS like; ways to collect 'data' about the frequency and degree of implementation of those practices, and then rich evidence of the outcomes of those practices. Such a system can also be effective in providing meaningful and specific feedback to teachers and administrators and could be used for professional development goals. I also think the innovation piece in CBAM (there is a short video clip in which this is described very well) on the website that sells the CBAM materials could inform the work being done.

  3. I agree with S.King - it needs to start with COLLABORATIVELY defining what effectiveness looks like. And it needs to start by building a culture where the evaluation system is one that promotes growth of the professional - not merely a ranking or a gotcha system. Unfortunately - in many systems, we have been doing teacher/principal evaluation poorly for a while so this move is a big shift.

    And by growth I am not diving into the current debates around use of test score - whether measuring achievement or growth. I am talking about reflective practice in which all professionals (stress PROFESSIONALS) dig deep into their practice and see ways that it could be better. Too often in working with districts on using one of the NYS approved rubrics (we have a similar situation in our state) - teachers and principals want the "highest" score all the time. That isn't now many of the rubrics were created or intended to be used and it doesn't reflect a growth mindset.

    There are so many things to be said on this topic having lived with trying to implement this change in my state for the past year and a half. Change is hard - but so worth it if done well.

  4. I hope that we start using the evaluation process to drive reform instead of using evaluations as a reaction to reform. The loose or non-existent definitions and processes in SB191 provide us a great opportunity to define what we think education should look like in the future, and then create an evaluation system based on that vision. I guess what I’m getting at is that we should be thinking about what the keys are to successful education systems and then basing the evaluations off those systems. Thus, we could use the evaluations as a tool to inspire and promote systemic reform, rather than treating evaluations as a bureaucratic process that is accountability driven, which is unfortunately how I think many people are viewing them.

  5. hmm.
    curious if we could possibly, boldly, reclaim ourselves. if we could pause long enough to notice how ridiculous we've become. [ie: is this real?]

    if we're seeking self-directed learners, key to that is, can they self-assess. seems appropriate then, to not only model, but believe that for ourselves.
    i'm suggesting, a better way to evaluate - would be to focus on self-evaluation. we have so much evidence that outside evaluations are the most inaccurate. and even worse, that they create spaces of tension. we need to focus more on spaces of freedom, less on management.

    imagine all we would save in people, time, money, if we weren't obsessed with proving things. and if we focused more on learning than on instruction.

  6. I can’t believe how long I am sitting here thinking about this. Every time I put something down on paper, I think, no – that wouldn’t be fair because…
    The truth is, the effectiveness of teachers is extremely complex. There are probably a hundred different variables per student in any given class in terms of what works, or what doesn’t to help them learn any particular thing.
    So, maybe it gets down to the baseline things. None of these are particularly easy to assess, but these are things I look for when I do observations with our 21st century cadre.
    -Has the teacher created an environment conducive to learning?
    -Are students engaged? (one of the best indicators of this –students are asking questions – and not just clarifying ones, or - they are creating something)
    -Is the learning that is taking place requiring students to use 21st century skills: critical thinking, invention, information literacy, self-direction, and/or collaboration?