Over the last several years, school systems and states have focused considerable effort on developing reliable, valid, and fair educator evaluation systems. Nearly every evaluation system claims to place professional growth and development at its heart. The premise is that ongoing feedback, based on data, will lead to explicit goals for improvement. Most improvement goals then become the focus of individual professional development plans that identify how employees will address their own goals.
Stronger evaluation systems with greater reliability, validity, and fairness are a welcome addition to the overall goal of improving student learning. Continuous improvement in educators’ practice is consistent with research that finds that a person’s expertise grows over ten years or 10,000 hours of practice and is aided with constructive, frequent, and evidence-based feedback. Growth and development require opportunities for professional learning consistent with the student and educator goals.
Too often, school systems and states have designed operational components of the evaluation system while neglecting to strengthen the learning. If professional growth is at the core of evaluation, neglecting to review and upgrade the learning may set up potentially nullifying circumstances. If the professional learning cannot address the diverse needs of educators through opportunities for learning, ongoing support for implementation of learning, alignment with content standards for students, and higher performance standards for educators, how valid is evaluation that depends on continuous learning for improving professional practice?
It is this very situation that creates an urgency for school system and state leaders to conduct their own heart check-ups by deeply examining and revamping their professional learning systems to ensure that they are comprehensive, capable of meeting the growth and development needs of educators, aligned with student content standards, and focused on higher standards for educator performance.
Comprehensive Professional Learning System: A Workbook for States and Districts provides resources to guide education leaders in the review and revision of professional learning systems. A deep analysis of the current professional learning establishes a baseline for making needed improvements and is a critical first step towards heart-healthy evaluation systems.
The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch 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.