In a recent course I took as part of my doctoral program at Widener University, I was required to read Teacher Supervision and Evaluation, by James Nolan Jr. and Linda A. Hoover (2010). When I got the book, my attitude was, as it normally is toward textbooks, “yuck!” However, the book really shifted my thinking regarding teacher supervision and evaluation. Ultimately, I was smacked with the harsh reality that, “You’re doing it wrong!” But I quickly realized, it wasn’t only me. It wasn’t only my district. It was the whole model designed by the state of Pennsylvania for administrators to implement. This model, or one similar, is probably used in most states throughout the country. And there is one big problem! It does not promote the growth of all teachers. In fact, it probably stifles growth. In response, I want to share some thoughts and solutions.
Supervision and Evaluation are Different
Teacher evaluation was designed to ensure that all teachers meet a minimal level of quality in their practice. Traditionally, the measurement for this model includes formal and informal observations of teaching. In the end, the teacher will receive a rating of Failing, Needs Improvement, Proficient, or Distinguished (or similar names). These mastery level ratings are not designed to promote teacher growth. The criteria for each domain and indicator remain the same for all teachers, and the success criteria for each performance level remains constant. Once a teacher receives a proficient or distinguished rating, this model does nothing to promote continual growth. Teachers can only assume to keep doing the same thing, to receive the same rating. By design, there is no motivation or encouragement to continue improving and growing.
Teacher supervision was designed as a model to promote growth for all teachers, regardless of performance level. Under differentiated supervision models, teachers may conduct action research, design portfolios with a focus on improvement, or participate in peer observation aligned with growth goals. Differentiated supervision is designed to promote growth for all teachers, including those rated proficient or distinguished. The problem I realized with this model currently, was that at the end of the year we still have to give each teacher an evaluation rating. Rather than providing quality feedback to promote growth, this model forces teacher supervision to act the same as evaluation. However, they are not suppose to act in the same manner. Much like feedback in the classroom does more to promote learning than grades, teacher feedback without evaluation ratings would do more to promote continued growth among our all teachers.
In most districts, evaluation and supervision to not work independent of each other, and they usually overlap. In honesty, most people would not be able to explain the difference, or even know there is suppose to be one.
In a three-year cycle, tenured teachers would be on a traditional evaluation mode once, and a differentiated supervision mode for two years. When in the traditional mode, a teacher would be formally and informally observed, lesson plans could be submitted for feedback, professionalism could be rated, and teachers would receive a traditional end-of-year evaluation rating. Once the teacher has demonstrated they meet minimal expectations, which is the purpose of evaluation, it can be determined they are ready for a differentiated supervision mode. If a teacher does not meet minimal expectations, they would continue on the traditional evaluation mode. This would also be true for new teachers, until they obtain tenure. It is the job of administrators to make sure new teachers are ready, and meet minimal expectations, before receiving tenure. This must be taken serious during the traditional evaluation mode.
During the two years teachers are on a differentiated supervision mode, they could choose from a menu of growth models including peer observation, portfolio, or action research. Each of these models would have a component which required teachers to focus on an area of growth. Teachers would be with administrators to plan implement and reflect upon their growth during these years. Ideally, they would not need to receive an end of year evaluation rating during these two years. They would only receive feedback which would promote their continued growth.
So what to do about states that require domain and evaluation ratings every year?
If we take traditional evaluation seriously, isn’t it appropriate to assume the teacher could be assigned the same domain ratings they received the last time they were on traditional evaluation mode? For example, if a teacher demonstrated they were “Distinguished” in Preparation and Planning, isn’t it safe to assume they would not all of the sudden drop to “Failing” the next year? Can we have enough trust in our teachers, that they will at least continue to do as well as they did in the last year of traditional evaluation? Removing a tie to do evaluation ratings during years teachers are on a differentiated supervision mode, would be a shift that could significantly promote the growth of all teachers.
Does your model of teacher evaluation and supervision promote the growth of all your teachers? What ideas do you have for improvements?