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How School Districts are Using Technology to Improve Teacher Evaluations

Nearly 50 years have passed since Dr. Robert Goldhammer published what would become the first widely embraced handbook for teacher evaluations. The principles outlined by Goldhammer included five phases of supervision — observation conference, observation, analysis, supervision conference, and analysis of the analysis.

Only in recent history have educators challenged the traditional methods found in “Clinical Supervision: Special Methods for the Supervision of Teachers.”

While modern innovations have ranged from weighing employee performance on student test scores to peer reviews, some school districts and education experts are introducing the concept of using technology to improve the process of evaluating teachers.

Using video for classroom evaluations

The concept of using video cameras for surveillance is nothing new. In a post 9/11 world, the use of video surveillance in public areas has become the norm throughout America. Studies show that the surveillance industry is expected to grow to $88 billion by 2024, as demand increases for crime prevention.

However, the technology is showing some promising results in the classroom as a measure that could improve outcomes of teacher evaluations.

Several years ago, the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University explored the concept of using video cameras for classroom observations — testing it out in school districts in Georgia, North Carolina, Colorado, California and Delaware. Under the Best Foot Forward Project (BFF), teachers were selected for a group that entailed taking videos of themselves in their classrooms. Another group continued to operate under the traditional evaluation model.

Peer groups provided feedback to video footage of the test group as well as to in-classroom observations. According to the study results, teachers in the test group reported having a better experience with their evaluations because they were less adversarial; allowed teachers to get a better view of what was going on in the classroom; and provided observers a better perspective on how teachers performed.

Streamlining evaluations with software

An increasing number of school districts are also making use of software to eliminate the cumbersome and time-consuming process of keeping paper records for teacher evaluations. By maintaining feedback and observations online, teachers and evaluators are able to easily access information, including evaluation notes, progress reports, training, and other relevant data.

Using employee evaluation software also has an additional benefit, according to some companies that have adopted it as a model. It enables evaluators to have more frequent evaluations. In one instance, a manager has been updating reviews during weekly one-on-ones instead of quarterly or annually to provide more real-time feedback, according to an article in the Omaha World-Herald.

If there’s a problem, Josh Boesch, a partner at a staffing firm, said he’s able to resolve it quicker. Under the traditional performance evaluation, it would have been much more time-consuming to provide updates.

Also, when employee evaluations are conducted as part of a weekly meeting, the focus is on improving employee performance or teacher performance — not on rankings, numerous managers reported.