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Securing Your Teacher Evaluation Process in 2021 and Beyond

Over the past decade, school districts, teachers, and principals have been grappling with how to overhaul teacher evaluation systems — with many initiatives being led by extensive research on performance and student outcomes.

Many of my colleagues would agree that while the positive reinforcement of a summary of a job well done was pleasant, true constructive feedback was limited during 1990’s and early 2000’s. Evaluations of the past were used primarily to dismiss teachers.

As a result, school districts across the nation have been undergoing a series of changes. Of course, these initiatives can vary significantly from state to state. Yet, no matter what type of changes your district or school may be considering with teacher evaluations, they should include the five following essential rubrics or methodologies.

Training of evaluators and teachers. To ensure an ethical evaluation process, it’s important to provide training for both evaluators and teachers. The goal of evaluations should focus on improving the individual’s performance  — not dismissal. Therefore, the process should include multiple observations by various administrative staff to increase reliability and consistency among evaluators. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the superintendent to analyze and track this data to ensure that observations are equitable.

Meaningful feedback. A strong personnel plan should also include meaningful feedback. However, according to a study cited by Kevin Ochsner of Columbia University, people only apply the feedback they receive about 30 percent of the time. As a result, teacher evaluators need to focus on improving the effectiveness of evaluation feedback — making it measurable and concise. According to Entrepreneur magazine, five essential tips for evaluators in providing employee feedback include creating safety, and being positive, specific, immediate and tough (but not mean). A system in which teachers can review measurable goals also can boost retention.

Growth plans or professional development plans.  A strong evaluation plan should drive professional growth of all employees in the school district, not just those in need of improvement. It is considered best practice to provide all teachers with professional development and growth. Also, an analysis of teacher evaluation data should be used to drive school-wide and district-wide professional development opportunities.

Documentation. Another critical part of the teacher evaluation is documentation to ensure an ethic process. With documentation of all correspondence and steps, evaluators and teachers can ensure that they can review the data. This data should be easily accessible, allowing the teacher and evaluator to meet more frequently to review plans for improvement.

Instructional leadership. One of the first steps in ensuring a successful evaluation process is gaining a thorough understanding of the employee’s needs. This requires strong leadership that involves providing resources and removing barriers that prevent individuals within the district from being successful. This may be done on a large scale, such as lobbying or advocating for changes to educational laws at the state level, or a small scale, such as securing appropriate resources and materials for staff and students to be successful.

Applying these five methodologies will greatly improve how you communicate and what you communicate with teachers. The right structure and the right information is truly the key to effective teacher evaluation performance.

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