Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Simplify and Improve the MA Teachers' Evaluation System

I am a fan of the research and elements that underlie the Massachusetts' Educator Evaluation system. I am also a fan of the framework process that exists. However, now that we've had the system for a while, I believe it's time to simplify the approach. I believe this is true because the evaluation process is taking up more time than it's worth.

Here's what I propose.

Continue to Foster Self Reflection
First, let's keep the self evaluation process. I think it's great for teachers to analyze their teaching and learning against the 33 elements. There are many ways to do that, and I offer two websites I've created as vehicles in this regard: TeachFocus and Reflect for Success.

Continue to Set Goals
Next, I also think it's great that teachers have to make a student learning goal and a professional learning goal for the year. This directs our work in ways that matter. Creating these goals based on self reflection, a review of school and systemwide goals, and a discussion with your evaluator and/or teaching team is a terrific way to start the year.

Regularly Reflect and Keep A Professional File
After that, I think it's a good idea for teachers to regularly reflect, assess, create, and teach with their professional learning goal, student learning goal, and the evaluation elements in mind. It's advantageous for educators to keep some kind of online or offline reflective vehicle such as a journal, notebook, online eportfolio, or binder of their efforts. When educators do this, they essentially create a collection of evidence that they can use to discuss, better, or share their work in ways that matter.

Educator Observations, Feedback, and Response
I also think it's great that evaluators make the time to view an educator's work a couple of times a year for tenured staff and perhaps a few more times for nontenured or new staff. I think it's great that they offer feedback after those observations and that they inspire growth with questions. I also think it's great that educators respond to this feedback with a few comments. This is positive. The challenge here, at times, is that evaluators have too many teachers to evaluate. Yet, I've noticed that many evaluators are taking advantage of collaborative time for evaluations so that they can evaluate more than one educator at a time. That's often timely and worthwhile.

Eliminate District Determined Measures
I think the District Determined Measures are a less valid or valuable source of information. In many cases these measures are not valid and don't reveal any new information. They are very cumbersome, time consuming, and in my opinion, a waste of time. I think this part of the evaluation system that should be eliminated.

Eliminate Scores as Indicators of Individual Educator Success
As far as standardized state scores, I think that they could be used to evaluate the work of a whole school, not individual teachers. If schools struggle with scores, then systems could look deeper as to why and possibly for ways to improve the school as a whole.

Simplify the Final Evaluation Piece: Write a Letter that Includes Evidence Links
At the end of the year, I believe that each educator should write his or her own evaluation letter. The letter should include a paragraph for each of the categories listed below. In each paragraph, an educator would describe how he/she met that area of teaching and learning and include a link to one piece of evidence.

The categories include:
  • Student Learning Goal
  • Professional Learning Goal
  • Curriculum Planning and Assessment
  • Teaching All Students
  • Family and Community Engagement
  • Professional Culture
Synthesize Goals, Observations, Reflection Letter for Final Evaluation
The letter would be submitted to the evaluator who reads, responds, and synthesizes with the observations notes and responses for an overall evaluation of needs improvement, proficient, or exceeds expectations. The teachers' letters and responses are filed in a simple data system that's easy to manage and review if needed with no need for costly software packages, but instead simple to use and access online files.

The foundation of the new Massachusetts Educator Evaluation system is good, but meeting the current expectations costs too much money in time and personnel--time and people that could be used to teach children well.