Professional growth is one of the few ways to really focus on student learning and academic achievement. Supporting teachers and administrators with an effectively designed approach to growth far surpasses the traditional “dog and pony show” formal classroom observation. But where to start?
The first step is to gather a team of teachers who are both leaders and progressives in their approach to evaluations. Building a team of individuals to explore different options with an open-mind and student-focused perspective is the best place to start.
The second step? Host brainstorming sessions about what the educators like and dislike about the current approach. Ideally, this would look different for teachers and administrators. What would pathways look like to true educator growth that focused on both learning and personal growth?
Step three….what are the beliefs that are held in the district? What is valued in the schools with the leaders? With the teachers? Is the belief that every child can survive? If so, how do educators grow as professionals so they can best support the diverse needs of their students?
Step four – there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Many models exist in other districts that can be used, and they have often been in place and vetted for a bit so the kinks are out of the way. Are there districts near you that have similar demographics, beliefs, values and structures with revamped evaluation processes that can be used to guide your work? Chances are that, with a little homework, finding a few wouldn’t be that difficult.
During this step, when the designing of a new process is taking place, the most important piece is to ensure buy-in, particularly by those whose roles will be most impacted by the new system. If it is overly time consuming for the evaluator, such as the principal or assistant principal, to use with teachers and the administrator roles are already impacted, mitigating factors should be strongly examined. Likewise, if class sizes are larger than most districts and blogging, perhaps weekly, is part of the new approach, reevaluating the frequency and depth of entries may be have to analyzed…and better thought out.
Providing support and training during a transition is step five, and clearly the most important step in any newly remodeled evaluation process. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are evaluation approaches. Taking the time to address the snags and improve the process, while bringing along the staff, is critically important for long term stability and success.
Finally, step six. Are there any technology programs that can help ensure the success of the new evaluation approach? Are there places to house the process, required documents, notes, timelines, reminders and evidence collection? Many new products have been designed over the years that can help with the accountability phases. If all else fails, the Google suite has a number of ways to blog and house evaluations that can be considered, provided specifically agreed upon processes and documentation phases are established.
It won’t happen overnight, it won’t be effortless, and it won’t be perfect at first, but taking the time to collaboratively design educator evaluation systems that focus on professional growth and not a game of “gotcha” are the best ways to value and support the staff who make the greatest difference in the lives of students.