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It’s no secret that schools need to find new ways to engage and develop their teachers to retain their staff and deliver high-quality education.

While workshops, seminars, and training courses can inform and motivate, they aren’t enough to sustain growth long-term. Continuous growth and engagement for teachers require a data-driven professional growth plan—a systematic approach that is personal, rooting in reliable teacher evaluation data and aligned with documented successes across the nation.

In 2012, the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality (NCCTQ) published a research and policy brief titled “Linking Teacher Evaluation to Professional Development,” funded by the U.S. Department of Education. In that report, researchers argued that (a) collected evidence of teacher performance should drive development strategies, and (b) the alignment between teacher evaluation and growth should begin with identifying sources of reliable evidence.

Among the chief thoughts, concerns, and best practices discussed by the authors of that report, we highlight the following:

  • No one performance metric can provide all the information needed to accurately assess a teacher’s performance. Using multiple measures is key to understanding the full range of a teacher’s abilities, and to painting a more complete picture of his/her strengths and weaknesses. Triangulating results from various metrics also enables greater confidence in the final results when all scores are not in agreement.
  • Teacher buy-in is the leading characteristic of high-quality professional development for teachers. “Ideally, teachers will be involved at every level, providing their insights and expertise” the report states. “For any system to be successful, its primary stakeholders — in this case, teachers — must believe in its value.”
  • It’s vital for teachers, evaluators, and leaders to be on the same page regarding “the standards being measured, the evidence to be examined, and how to appropriately score the evidence.” It’s the only way to drive out subjectivity, biases, ambiguity, and misunderstandings from the evaluation process.

Having collected reliable performance data with the above principles in mind, you can equip teachers for success by creating a four-part professional growth plan:

  1. Identify and reflect on areas of need.
  2. Plan for improvement.
  3. Identify resources.
  4. Re-evaluate.

When schools equip teachers with a thoughtful, customized growth plan, students win. And when students win, so do educators and administrators. It’s an inescapable cycle, and data-driven professional growth plans can make it a winning one.

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