One of many attempts to “fix” the flaws of traditional grading practices, has been the implementation of grading floors. In this video, I provide alternative ways to balance the flaws of the 100 point scale, and traditional grading practices.
This year, our school implemented a learning pathway model of professional development with our teachers. I’ve shared our rationale and an overview of our work in previous posts. We are now at the time of year when we need to take time to reflect on the success of this model. To do so, we sent out a staff survey, met with our School Instructional Leadership Team, and had individual conversations with teachers at their end of year meetings. After reviewing the feedback, we came away with the following reflections:
1. Choose and autonomy are great, but it must be balanced with some structure and support.
When designing the structure, we didn’t want to micromanage goal-setting, action steps, or resources. We did provide a general guide for groups to use, but took more of a hands-off approach to monitoring and involvement in guiding action steps. As a result, multiple groups shared they struggled with setting goals that could guide the significance of the work, and sustain focus throughout the whole school year.
To respond to this feedback, we made several improvements for next year. First, we structured the guidelines to encourage teachers to generate questions they are curious about, related to their topic. We felt questions, rather than goals, could encourage teachers to pursue specific areas of interest. Groups can generate broad goals, and individuals can also develop and pursue answers to their own questions. In addition, we plan to provide more hands-on support at the early stages of question development, to assist groups with getting started. One method for generating questions, which we will encourage, is to use the Question Formulation Technique.
2. Some individuals struggled with aligning their learning pathway work with their differentiated supervision model.
One of the intended benefits of this model of professional development was that teacher’s who were on a differentiated supervision model could use the work of their learning pathway to support their portfolio or action research. For example, a teacher who participated in the technology integration learning pathway, could focus their portfolio to highlight their work engaging students in learning, and utilization of resources, which are two components of the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching. They can take their professional learning and use it to implement strategies and resources to improve work with students, and highlight that through their portfolio.
3. Teachers were interested in more opportunity to share their work.
As teachers collaborated in small groups, the learning they gained was generally isolated from the work of the other groups. Teachers expressed interest in more opportunities to share their learning among the groups. To respond to this feedback, we plan to design our annual Learning Lounge (see @MurphysMusings5‘s post on this awesome experience) to allow groups to share and collaborate midway through the year.
If we want to empower our students to take more ownership of their learning, pursue their interests, and become lifelong learners, we must model these traits through our own professional learning. We need to create experiences that encourage educators to become a profession of learners. We do this by providing a balance of choice, autonomy, purpose, structure and support. I am so excited to see how the improvements we are making to this balance leads to even greater success with this model next year.
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?