Saturday, March 09, 2013

teacher evaluation

I have been appointed to a new School District 57 committee to discuss what teacher evaluation might look like over the coming years. I'll edit this post once I get more information on what that process looks like (and once I get to the pre-reading!), but I'd like to start by soliciting some input from other teachers (and others in the educational community).  I assume the committee will include representatives from the employer (e.g. senior administration), principal/vice-principal association, and DTA exec with teachers (Debbie Page and myself), possibly a trustee and maybe others (?).

What issues do you see as we approach this topic? What questions do you want raised? Do you know of successful evaluation models we should consider?

Please leave a comment below if you'd like to register some input.  Our first meeting is Monday March 11th.

Here are some of my preliminary thoughts and questions as I give first consideration to this topic:

Issue #1: Diverse definitions, expectations, and competencies for professionalism

Standards exists, but how do we apply these to practicing teachers who typically define their own challenges and solutions? Within accepted standards, which goals and strategies take priority, those defined by the Ministry? School District? School? Teacher? How do we resolve stark differences that may exist between philosophies of education? What critieria should be used to assess competence? How important is mutual agreement on criteria when evaulation takes place? How important are the qualifications, skills, or experience of the person or persons conducting evaluation? Should the process be "blind" to the evaluator and evaluation subject, or should each bring something of their own skill-set and identity into the evaluation design and process?

Issue #2: Competing goals for professional evaluation

Is evaluation a means to identify problems that teachers are experiencing? Is evaluation a refocusing tool to bring classroom practice back to student development? Or to a position more in tune with a goal or philosophy (see issue #1)? Is it a means to identify opportunities for growth by the teacher (and on the teacher’s terms)? Is it possible to lay out agendas in the discussion process, or during the evaluation process itself? Perhaps we need more than one option for evaluation – a different tool for different evaluation scenarios -- for they are not exactly the same.  One can’t simply say the focus is on improvement vs discipline… if there is a role for both, this must be clear. We should also be careful to avoid educational cliches about "learners" or assume that we all agree as to the meaning and importance of terms like AFL, differentiated instruction, 21st century learning, etc.

Issue #3: Follow-up on evaluation and role of growth plans

What happens after an evaluation? Does something need to happen (and what would trigger this)? Is there an expected role for growth plans? How do we make this process positive, meaningful, and relevant? Is it important to make this process simple? How can instructional leaders model effective practice (e.g. through use of their own growth plans)? What implications does the evaluation process have on other aspects of our system? For example, if a problem is identified during an evaluation that can be traced back to the workplace (i.e. school or district contexts), is there an expectation that something will be done to repair the context that may be triggering a problem? How else might the evaluation process actually build a more positive work climate and culture of improvement in the school district?  For example, might teacher evaluations be paralleled with administrative evaluations?  Another example, could we use voluntary test or pilot evaluations to explore models and publicly celebrate the work done by teachers?

Please feel free to add to this or challenge what I have written.