Monday, October 8, 2012

Collaborative Teacher Appraisal Systems

In Texas, our evaluation instrument is called PDAS, Professional Development Appraisal System. The emphasis should be on professional development but with the lack of time (due to endless tasks) to get to all of the components of the system, administrators usually resort to completing only the appraisal part of the system. Sadly, the result usually finds the principal coming in with little knowledge of the teacher, instruction and the class' progress up to that point. He bases the evaluation on his interpretation of instruction and gives the teacher feedback on what he saw in 45 minutes. The end.

There's a giant disconnect here. The principal is giving feedback on his or her perception of each of the indicators in the appraisal system with little knowledge of all the work that the teacher has done. For the teacher, he or she is hoping that what he or she is doing will meet the virtually unknown perceptions of the administrator.

What's an even bigger problem is that the administrator is doing this to several teachers at one time, and the teachers often wonder what is expected from the administrator in the evaluation. And even bigger than that the administrator has no baseline, other than the evaluation instrument, to base his subjective ratings.

To ensure appraisal alignment between both parties, administrators meet with teachers before they have the formal evaluation. The administrator clarifies his or her expectations for what they would like to see in the classroom, and the teacher plays a role in the discussion by sharing what they are going to deliver in the instruction. This will help things, but here's the problem with this from a global perspective.

Time constraints
If an administrator is evaluating 20 employees, how much time will he or she spend pre-conferencing with every single person that they are going to evaluate? A good pre-conference last about 30 minutes, so for 20 employees the administrator would need to take 600 minutes or 10 hours to do pre-conferencing alone. Will every pre-conference get the same level of dialogue from these 10 isolated hours?

Limited ideas
If the preconference is at its very best, how many ideas can be gained from one 30 minute conversation between one teacher and one administrator, even if the setting has the ultimate level of trust? If the administrator is interrupted mentally or physically (which is certain to occur), the think tank is reduced to 1 person.

Instead of one administrator spending 30 minutes meeting with one teacher at a time, why not get all of the employees together with the administrator and meet in 3 or 4 meetings of 30 minutes each to discuss the evaluation together. The administrator would cut the pre-conferencing from 10 hours down to 2 hours. That's efficiency!

Safety in Numbers
When there are several teachers in the room with one administrator, teachers feel more comfortable in sharing their ideas about the evaluation criteria. They will also be more willing to ask questions about what the administrator's thoughts are on the criteria.

Exponential Ideas
If the administrator will spend time guiding discussion about each indicator with the group, teachers can be truly collaborative about what those indicators look like and sound like in action. In this setting, teachers will feel more comfortable asking questions about the criteria to the administrator and to different teachers that share ideas in the meeting. The focus of the meeting moves from the teacher and the administrator agreeing on the conditions of the appraisal to creating high quality instruction in action. That's a think tank on steroids!

Pre-Observation Walk-Throughs
Administrators should spend some time in each teacher's classroom giving them feedback before the formal evaluation. I plan to use the Evernote app and take specific notes and then share them with the teacher. The notes will be scripted in a way that are not judgmental but rather factual things that are seen in the classroom based on the collaborative discussion from all the teachers. My hope is to have dialogue with the teacher and encourage the teacher to visit with other teachers to gather suggestions and new ideas. The purpose of the informal walk-throughs is to ensure alignment on the criteria between the teacher and the administrator.

Instructional Rounds
After my first meeting with all the teachers that I plan to evaluate last week, two teachers stayed after the meeting. They asked me if it was okay to observe another teacher from the meeting that had great ideas that they wanted to know more about. My response was an emphatic yes followed by a question of how I could help them get into the classroom to watch the teacher teach. This, after all, is the ultimate form of professional development.

Teacher Retention
Now imagine! What teacher wouldn't want to be in a system like this:
  • A system where the expectations are that the teachers co-labor with the administrator and one another to come up with the criteria for each indicator in the evaluation,
    A system where teachers commit to support one another to make sure that all of them are successful,
    A system where teachers are wanting to be in each other's rooms to learn from one another,
    A system where professionalism & improvement are the centerpieces of the appraisal system.

Putting the PD in PDAS
A strong collaborative team has an immense amount of power to build capacity in every single employee. Teachers want a great evaluation, and they want to know that they are doing a great job. Administrators must provide the supports and the avenues for teachers to work together to ensure that every teacher succeeds instructionally first and earns an excellent evaluation second. Through this system every teacher who commits to this collaborative appraisal system should earn an excellent evaluation because the teachers and the administrators are working in tandem to ensure that instruction is at the highest levels of quality, and shouldn't that be the intended outcome of an appraisal system?

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