District asks principals to look at evaluations differently
- Principals in Omaha, Neb., recently had an opportunity to get a different view of teachers as part of a project in which they were asked to set aside ideas about how traditional learning should look and instead consider that educators are being asked to use new methods and should be evaluated differently.
- Leaders of technology integration in the local schools initiated the effort, along with others concerned that teacher evaluations didn’t consider the district’s emphasis on personalized learning in its five-year strategic plan, according to an article in EdSurge, part of a series on personalized learning.
- The principals initially were asked to visit three classrooms for 12 minutes, each with an open mind about any “chaos” or nontraditional teaching methods they might see, but still look for evidence of learning. The district hopes the effort will ensure principals go into classrooms more often, and make observations “less about checklists and more about listening to students and teachers.”
A recent Michigan State University researcher found that principals themselves often lack confidence in their district’s teacher evaluation policies, particularly measures of student growth and rubrics used for the evaluations. The report also showed that principals often did not trust evaluations by other members of their staff, which led them to score their teachers higher to compensate.
New thinking about evaluations in Massachusetts, driven by federal policy giving more freedom to states and districts, also allows school leaders to use their own judgment. The system downplays student test scores and rewards high-performing teachers with more freedom to determine their own growth plan.
While the Omaha example suggests that teachers worry they will be evaluated unfairly if they don’t use traditional techniques, a report by two former principals, who now work as consultants, showed that 75% of teachers felt their evaluations have no impact on their work and that “teacher evaluation does not recognize good teaching, leaves poor teaching unaddressed, and does not inform decision making in any meaningful way.”
One suggestion from a 2011 study was for administrators to use evaluators from outside the school, which the research showing that most teachers felt this approach would result in fairer results.