27J Schools worked to create a new dynamic, research based evaluation system. The world is changing. What that world will demand from our students is changing. As educators, we are compelled to adjust. To prepare students we must match our practices to the challenge of preparing our students for that future. In 27J we believe the Thinking Classroom is the vision to bring us to that future. In the Thinking Classroom students are actively inquiring, problem-solving and self-regulating. Our evaluation system supports the Thinking Classroom by asking the same of our teachers: the teacher as learner.
A committee of teachers and administrators worked together to design a system that infused new teacher quality components based on the Colorado Teaching Standards, Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching and other standards. Foundational concepts included Robert Garmston’s research about self-directed learning based on self-reflection, Carol Dweck’s research on Growth Mindset and using learning goals to increase competence, and Edward Deming’s systems research.
The research is clear. Regular, intentional, goal-centered coaching promotes growth, not summative evaluation. Together teachers and administrators created a dynamic system based on three key concepts:
Key Concepts: (1) Growth (2) Ownership (3) Focus
Growth - the principal works as coach to give descriptive feedback. The teacher drives his/her practice and learning towards a high leverage goal.
Ownership - the teacher owns his/her goal and the effort towards achieving the goal.
Focus - the teacher and principal work to establish a high leverage, meaningful goal that will be the focus of learning, observation and feedback. The principal is the support. The teacher is the driver of that focus.
Key System Elements:
1. The Learning Goal - the teacher and administrator choose a strong, aligned learning goal to drive to. The Learning Goal is documented and unpacked to provide a shared vision of success.
2. The Learning Log - the teacher and administrator use the Learning Log to reflect, question and engage in process of growth focused on a goal
3. Observations - the administrator provides a strong lens for viewing the teachers growth toward the goal. Observations occur as needed, not ‘by appointment.’
4. Coaching and Feedback - the administrator provides updated and ongoing feedback about goal progress, while supporting the teacher’s self-regulation to and ownership of the goal.
5. Data - the teacher and principal use to data to provide information about classroom and student needs and progress towards the goal.
The New Teacher Evaluation System: The Teacher’s Perspective
The two teachers in 27J interviewed for this case study praised the coaching aspect of the new evaluation system. “In the past, teachers just counted up Es and Ps and hoped they didn't have any Us,” said one teacher. “Now I’m not going for a grade. I know I’m doing a good job and my evaluator knows I’m doing a good job.”
The system is model for students in the Thinking Classroom. One teacher has facilitating her students reflecting and owning their learning with the same type of reflection and feedback her principal provides. “So this could be writing a note to themselves or to me on an objective or lesson,” she said. “We communicate back and forth and have a log going. The best part of the growth plan is the extra conversations I get to have with my evaluator. We talk and reason it out and I ask advice – such as getting groups of kids on task. These conversations weren’t happening before this new system. …Ultimately, what I really love is being in my classroom. I feel blessed to do it and have the kids I get to teach.”
Another teacher, new to 27J, values the ongoing engagement. This year he picked two growth goals – one to improve his content knowledge and another to build rapport and have better management strategies with his students since he was new to the district. “My principal comes into my classroom every 20-30 days. One or two days later he shares what he wrote in my log. Then I self reflect. At the end of the year there is a final reflection – whether I have met my goals and if I want to keep them for next year or set new goals.”