Educator Evaluation Process: It's About Growth and Reflection @sguditus

When I arrived at my school two years ago, I inherited an outdated and incomplete ed eval system, which included a negative culture and many assumptions around what the ed eval process could be, is and is not. As Massachusetts rolled out an updated and revised system over the past few years, I worked to form relationships with teachers and not just tell them, but show them, that the ed eval process can be a productive and effective tool – not something to be feared or to dread. Over the course of the last two years, I have worked to form relationships with teachers; I have worked to make a required process as positive and productive use of time as possible. Since this is something that needs to get done as per Massachusetts state law, why not make the best of it and use the time and tools to improve student learning and teacher instruction? This is, after all, a teacher's educator evaluation - so I find it imperative to engage educators in their evaluation process to ensure ownership of the process. This isn't something that should happen to teachers, but something that helps grow instruction and student learning.  

Over the course of the last several years, I have done a lot of reflection around the tone and culture I want to set in the ed eval process. I believe that all teachers deserve feedback at every level, not just the teachers who are doing particularly well or struggling. Would we only provide feedback to only students who are succeeding or struggling? No – as educators, we have an opportunity and a gift to help students maximize and expand their potential. As a a lead learner and evaluator, I belive it is similarly my job to ensure that the ed eval process is a productive, fair, and helpful tool. The Massachusetts DESE recently revised their vision on regarding the educator evaluation process, shifting from ev eval as an end goal to ed eval as a process to improve educator effectiveness. Words count, and I think this shift is an important one.

This year, I have about eight new staff members in my building. What an incredible opportunity I have to set
Focus on growth and reflection!
the tone and the culture with a large group of educators who are new to our learning community. I need to continue to not just tell, but show, teachers that they are an active participant in their evaluation – the keyword being their. The ed eval process is something that should not be done to teachers, but something in which they actively lead. It is about their growth and reflection, and about their path to continuing to improve. I am here to help inspire, encourage and suggest. I strive to regularly model making mistakes, taking risks, persevering, and trying again! Aren't these some of the characteristics that we want to develop in our students? 

Here are five steps that I tried to follow to develop a positive culture around the ed eval process: 

  1. Be clear about the spirit of the ed eval process. It is easy to get bogged down in the nuts and bolts of what is required in the ed eval process. Do not forget that ed eval is not an end goal, but a process that should be a tool to support educator growth. At our first kickoff staff meeting, I reminded educators that they are talented and awesome - and that the focus of this process is growth and reflection. I even provided some imagery and use this imagery on all the documents I use when discussing educator evaluation. Remember to remind staff that the goal and spirit of ed eval is _______. (For our school, it is growth and reflection.)
  2. You are not the smartest person in the room. If you think you are, you may be in big trouble. Just because you have a title after your name does not mean you know the most about education! When I
    meet with a room full of teachers at a team meeting, the collective years of experience and insight is overwhelming. Leaders are there to inspire, to encourage, and to help educators see the best in themselves – so do that, and let educators do what they do best! Encourage and inspire - but remember that educators are very smart people!
  3. Don't forget to be positive. This may seem like a simple one, but it is easy as an evaluator to provide feedback only on things you wish were different. In any given day, educators make hundreds and hundreds of decisions, and most do an amazing job with our students on a regular basis. Don't just assume that teachers know where you stand on their performance. Be clear, be honest, and provide positive feedback and encouragement where it is due.
  4. Be constructive. One of the most frustrating things for me when I was teaching students was receiving feedback without any recommendations or suggestions. Doing so consistently sends to the message that there are not additional areas for growth and opportunity. Remember the spirit of the ed eval process – for our school it's growth and reflection – so continue to not just tell, but show, support, provide resources, encouragement and praise.
  5. Spend time building your culture. In order for teachers to take a risk, they need to be able to trust you – and know that if something doesn't go as planned, you still have their back and support them. Spend the time to have a face to face conversations, follow up in person whenever possible, and work hard to develop a positive culture that supports both student and adult learning – on on going basis.

I have plenty more to learn, and wanted to share my insight and experience of implementing our ed eval process in my school. I view it as a tool to improve student learning and teacher effectiveness; what other suggestions do you have to do so?


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