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Teacher Evaluation: What's Fair? What's Effective?
November 8, 2012 | Volume 8 | Issue 3
Table of Contents
Engineering School Cultures for Successful Teacher Evaluation
As many states prepare to launch new educator evaluation systems and amidst ongoing controversy about how to make them fair and meaningful, teachers and administrators alike would do well to ask these questions: What is it about the current culture in which we are introducing these new instruments that will imperil their effectiveness and prevent them from helping teachers and students? How can we engineer cultures for effective teacher evaluation?
In a recent performance-improvement coaching workshop held at the Rhode Island Center for School Leadership, administrators and teacher leaders from school districts throughout the state explored these questions. We began by surfacing the tacit assumptions that seem to operate when teachers receive an "unsatisfactory" or "in need of improvement" rating on their evaluations. The candid list that emerged (not the personal views of the participants!) included the following notions:
It's not a pretty list, and it's certainly not a set of helpful assumptions for introducing new teacher-evaluation initiatives. No one would argue that if the tacit assumptions underlying the historical culture surrounding teacher evaluation prevail, then even the best new evaluation frameworks will fall prey to the same debilitating forces that have long bedeviled our profession.
New Frameworks, New Cultures
High-quality teacher evaluation is one facet of a systemic approach to providing a world-class education to students and communities. As such, any new teacher-evaluation model begs for the system it operates within to favor it; to leverage energy toward its successful launch and implementation. What if, simultaneous to improving the technology of teacher evaluation in ways that could fundamentally advance our profession, we rewire the culture for optimal implementation and sustainability? What are the make-it-or-break-it elements of a culture in which teacher evaluation is a welcomed strategy for professional development and student achievement?
Here are seven priorities for creating inspired school cultures where teacher evaluation is a powerful strategy for student success:
Take Up the Gauntlet
Truth be told, on their own, the seven priorities for creating optimal cultures for teacher evaluation are not new ideas as much as they are neglected ideas. As noted educator and author Peter Drucker famously said, "culture eats strategy for breakfast" and education, like many systems of similar complexity, has seen many good strategies succumb to lousy cultures. The challenge and opportunity before us is to implement new practices in teacher evaluation while giving equal thought to creating cultures that enhance and sustain the benefits we might gain from them.
Elle Allison is cofounder and president of Wisdom Out in Danville, Calif. Wisdom Out is a leadership and organizational development company that helps people sustain transformational change and bring their best initiatives to deep implementation.
ASCD Express, Vol. 8, No. 3. Copyright 2012 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.
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