A week has passed since the ASCD annual conference and as I look through my notes on my iPad (taken on the amazingly versatile Notability ap) I find that the theme around teacher evaluations and the move toward a more equitable system continues to hold fascination for me.
Douglas Reeves provided some insight on this. By starting with the research, Reeves described the current situation, particularly in the US, where merit pay, top 10% incentives and evaluation as a punitive exercise is common. From a recent report from the Rand Corporation (March 2012) the following findings are staggering: 20% of principals leave within two years; when a principal leaves, student achievement declines, deeper implementation of initiatives are associated with higher success; and culture beats policy, every time.
Reeves suggests a trifecta of evaluation: leadership, teaching and learning. By placing leadership within the evaluation process, the move from the standard rubrics of not meeting, minimally meeting, meeting and exceeding values based on teacher/student evaluations become less important. An experienced teacher who knows what needs to be implemented in his or her classroom, implements appropriately and then reaches out to other colleagues to coach them receives a higher evaluation than an experienced teacher who works in isolation of their classroom. I find this interesting, in that the school, district or province scale of support, mentoring and coaching are recognised as the pinnacle of success for the teaching profession.
Reeves also commented on the differences between evaluation (complying to requirements, focussed on one individual and a fixed mindset) and Assessment for Learning (ongoing, common understanding, group collective and a growth mindset). He suggests that the AFL approach to creating teachers that are lifelong learners also creates environments that are collaborative and student focussed. From this, he suggests (and borrows heavily on Hargreaves Fullan’s Professional Capital – an amazingly detailed book around developing and supporting professional capital in schools) a four point scale for evaluations: level one: no demonstration of understanding on what to do in certain circumstances; level two: understanding of what teachers need to do; level three: great in the teachers own circumstance/situation; and level four: reaching out and helping other teachers improve their practice.
The move to the next generation of evaluation should be focussed on the following: learning system, not humiliation; experimental, not certitude; error tollerant, not punishing; focussed, not fragmented; and local, not money or mandates.
As I re-read my notes and recall conversations, I look to our school and how we can move from a punitive evaluation (not satisfactory or satisfactory) to one that helps teachers improve, grow and experiment for the improvement of all (each) student learning.