To the Editor:
Nicholas A. Fischer’s Commentary on how his school district has improved student learning through a homegrown evaluation system has several worthwhile lessons for other districts.
Among other things, his district’s evaluation system, though based on state standards, was adapted internally by a team of administrators and teachers in a yearlong effort. Mr. Fischer credits the evaluation process to blending three important human-capital fundamentals linked to adult learning: identifying observable classroom behaviors tied to improved student learning, and using these indicators as connectors to standards-based professional development and access to growth opportunities; using student test scores as a barometric subtext rather than an absolute focus; and using the process as a human-development model, rather than a “gotcha” model.
He has also, according to his description, established the model as a developing one, using a union-management oversight team to keep the process current and balanced (an example of shared power in action).
For those observers of high-performing school districts, take note that Mr. Fischer, through his leadership, is treating the district as a social system of professionals rather than as a factory system for little adults, the latter of which is a failed model so often used as a foundation for teacher-evaluation systems. I have audited many school district evaluation systems and read thousands of completed evaluation forms. Few have the attractive characteristics of the one cited by Mr. Fischer.
The extraordinary aspect of this living case study arises out of his description of the enrolled student population’s ethnic and socioeconomic status, demographic data described in the fourth paragraph of his Commentary. There is some magic going on here—a strong rational evaluation model based on the Common Core State Standards that treats the teachers as responsible adults, creates an accountability model, and continually shares power with those affected by the evaluation process.
Nice work, Mr. Fisher.
Harwich Port, Mass.
A version of this article appeared in the July 10, 2014 edition of Education Week as Commentary Offers ‘Living Case Study’ on Evaluation