I’ve got my teacher evaluation. Now what?

That thought buzzes through my mind as I stare at my computer screen, looking at the evaluation reports from my principal and peer evaluator. I know what I scored, but what can I do with it? How can I link that evaluation to meaningful, differentiated professional development, molded just for me? I spin in my desk chair, contemplating this, hungry for more.

School systems nationwide are hastily putting new teacher evaluation models into place. Our country is a hotbed of new rubrics, with Charlotte Danielson and Robert Marzano growing to be as popular as a homecoming queen and king in a small, southern town.

Though I don’t agree with every reform on the large spectrum of efforts that are occurring with the implementation of teacher evaluation, I do think that these new rubrics are light-years ahead of the archaic models that previously graced clipboards. But it is time for us to take the next step, unleashing the true potential that these bad boys have. No…it’s not for ranking teachers (Shame on anyone who does!). It’s linking them to effective professional development.  Instead of leaving teachers alone to stress and obsess over an imperfect score in classroom management, show them that teaching is a work-in-progress by linking them to effective professional development tailored to their needs.

So how do we take this next step? Here are a few suggestions I’ve compiled to help us move forward as a country and kick things up a notch.

  1. The definition of professional development must broaden. We must say “adios” to the one-size-fits-all workshops. Good riddance. We must recognize the wide array of meaningful professional development (PD) that teachers don’t just participate in, but actively do. I’m talking book studies, professional reading, leading action research with grade-level teams.
  2. Professional development must be differentiated. I can promise you that I probably don’t need the same PD as my colleague next door, who doesn’t need the same PD as the teacher across the hall. After returning to the classroom this year, I know I need to work on pacing and my probing and questioning skills. How easy it is to lose your teaching rhythm! My colleague is in his thirteenth year of teaching and is working on developing inquiry skills with his learners. Just like the students in our classrooms, our teacher professional development needs are different as well. And must be individualized. It just makes sense.
  3. Hybrid roles can be the connectors and “invisi-brokers” of this differentiated learning. If teachers are on half-time release from their classrooms, they can help be the link between our teacher evaluations and that meaningful PD. We are a busy bunch as classroom teachers. I would fall out of my chair with delight if someone came in and helped me identify articles and ideas based on my teaching needs. Sign me up. I’m all in.
  4. The National Board Certification process needs to be embraced.  For two years in a row, the National Board Certified teachers in my county have had a mean score much higher than their non-NBCT peers on our evaluation scores. My guess? The NB process IS differentiated PD. Meaningful PD. The process is transformative and helped me become the reflective teacher I am today, based on my needs and the needs of my students.
  5. Teacher leaders must lead the charge. They are the experts. They need to not only be at the table in districts and states to help plan and coordinate these next steps, but also lead the conversation. Teachers leading teachers, using that data as the lever in making our army of effective educators even more amazing in their craft.  Districts and states must listen to and work with their teachers—they will benefit greatly from listening to their brightest local experts.
  6. School schedules should be rethought so teachers have time to be learners. Bell-to-bell teaching, spending every moment in front of students, is an archaic and sometimes non-effective use of time. Teachers must be given ample time during the school day to learn, research, reflect. To become better for their students. Many countries (read about Finland here) embrace this and are successful because of it. We need to stop digging in our stubborn red, white, and blue heels.

So I’m sitting here with my evaluation report in front of me, wanting to take some next steps.  I could really care less about the black and white score that I was given. That’s not where the power is. This is only effective if it guides future learning and improves my craft for my students. I’m not satisfied with only a score. I’m ready to grow. Who’s with me?

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