Opinion Blog


Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Teacher Evaluation Systems Based on Trust, Transparency, and Growth

By Guest Blogger — August 27, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Note: This week’s guest posts will be written by members of the YES Prep Public Schools team. Head of Schools Kari Thomas is today’s guest poster.

Teacher evaluation is a hot-button topic across the nation, to say the least. The stakes are often high and the results can be contentious. As we addressed our share of teacher evaluation challenges at YES Prep, we realized that, although we needed a way to evaluate teachers, what we really needed was a system that developed teachers in a meaningful, respectful way so that they could effectively serve their students.

Our current teacher development and evaluation system is anchored in our Instructional Excellence Rubric (IER). Our IER serves as the foundation for all of our teacher training and development and represents what we believe about quality teaching. And because we are a mission-driven and values-based organization, it also includes the mindsets and behaviors that we believe are essential for success as a professional in our organization. It is our central tool for teacher growth.

Evaluation is now just one part of a much more comprehensive process focused squarely on teacher development. What has allowed us to get consistently stronger teacher satisfaction results each year is focusing on trust, transparency, and growth in order to ensure that our teachers feel valued and enriched instead of judged.

The following principles for successful teacher evaluation have guided our recent work:

Leaders are coaches. If leaders are swoop-in evaluators a few times per year, teachers are most likely nervous about the experience and rarely grow from those observations. To be truly impactful, evaluators should serve more as instructional coaches.

All leaders at YES Prep who work closely with teachers - school leaders, deans of instruction, instructional coaches, content leaders - are trained on how to coach teachers effectively. For our deans of instruction, the primary evaluators on our campuses, this coaching relationship is essential to the growth of our teachers. Their frequent, often weekly, coaching interactions transform classroom observations and follow-up conversations into valuable growth experiences for teachers rather than rare and impersonal evaluations.

Consistency builds trust. If a teacher doesn’t feel that his or her evaluations are fair or if different leaders evaluate differently, the integrity of the process is broken and teachers won’t trust the system. For an evaluation rubric to work, all leaders need to understand and apply it in the same way. This is no easy task and requires commitment and resources.

Our approach to creating consistency across YES Prep has been two-fold: district-wide norming and campus-based norming. Leaders across the district gather to participate in co-observations on various campuses and come to an agreement on where a teacher’s performance falls on certain indicators on the IER and how they would coach that teacher to improve. We also norm by content area, led by our content leaders, to ensure that evaluators and leaders know what a concept like rigor, for example, means in a middle school math class versus a high school English class. And campus teams, in collaboration with our district’s instructional coaches, regularly observe classes together to make sure they are evaluating and coaching teachers consistently.

Open communication is key. We have had many rough patches as we’ve rolled out new versions of our IER and implemented new pieces of the system, like linking salary to evaluations. (We’ll cover this in Friday’s post.) The lesson we continually learn is that we have to be completely open about everything and invite our teachers to be completely open in return. If our teachers aren’t happy about something, we need to know that, and for them to be happy, they have to know everything - every step, every change, every calculation, every nuance. We also have an online tool that houses teachers’ observation and evaluation data, so that the final evaluation data isn’t a surprise, but a culmination of the personal progress they and their coaches have been tracking throughout the year.

The common thread linking all of these principles is the idea of building trust with teachers. Whatever your district’s system, programming should focus on building relationships between teachers and administrators that provide both the space and the tools for teachers to develop. The result is powerful momentum that pushes teachers, students, and schools forward.

--Kari Thomas

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP