Teacher evaluation systems differ from district to district, and from state to state. There are differences in the amount of observations, timelines, yearly goals, and rubrics. However, the purpose of teacher evaluations should remain constant: to provide teachers the valuable feedback they need in order to continue to improve their craft. Sadly, according to research, many teachers feel that the evaluation process is simply a mandated checklist and a hoop to jump through every year or two without any real meaning or benefit to themselves.
Here are five ways to strengthen the teacher evaluation system:
- Teachers should pick their own goals
If we want to increase teacher buy-in and accountability, we need to ensure that they are able to create their own goals. Too often, teachers are given goals to strive for each year that they are not connected to or feel passionate about. Goals become more personable when teachers choose them, not school or district administrators. Goals should never be pre-determined or written by an outside party, but created by the individual teachers who will be using them for the year.
- De-stress the Pre-Conference
Even seasoned teachers get anxious about being evaluated. It is the job of the administrator to ensure that the pre-conference sets the tone for the evaluation process: professional, stress-free, and collaborative. Teachers need to feel that their evaluator is on their side and wants them to succeed. Teachers should never feel that their administrator is out to get them during their evaluation. The process should be collaborative and focus on making positive steps forward, not just pointing out deficiencies.
- Be Clear On Expectations
Teachers want to know what their evaluator will be looking for when they are in the classroom. There is nothing worse than nebulous expectations. This will produce more unnecessary anxiety and stress. Expectations should be written out on the pre-conference form and discussed in a defined manner. All teachers should leave the pre-conference feeling confident and clear regarding expectations for the observations and for the evaluation process as a whole.
4. Stick to the Timelines
Administrators need to ensure that they adhere to timelines set in the collective bargaining agreement. Teachers should be able to count on their evaluator sticking to observation dates and post-observation conference timelines. This ensures that the information is fresh in both party’s minds during the post-conference and that dynamic and purposeful feedback can be provided. Not sticking to the timelines can result is observations and whole evaluation cycles being dismissed until the following year. This can be damaging to both teachers and students as the purpose of the evaluation is for teachers to received feedback in order to strengthen their instruction practices.
- Document The Good
Too often, teacher evaluations are filled with documentation of elements that need improvement. While this is important, evaluators also need to document what is working in the classroom and provide examples of dynamic teaching. Evaluations should shine a light on the hard work that teachers put in each and every day, as well as areas for growth. Without the positives, teachers who do need improvement might feel defeated, discouraged, and frustrated. Furthermore, highlighting the positive aspects of a lesson will help boost the confidence of teachers who are excelling and add to the positive culture of the school.
Dr. David Franklin, CEO of The Principal’s Desk, is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences is available for school and district professional development sessions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at http://www.principalsdesk.org.