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Books in Translation

Teacher Evaluation: What's Fair? What's Effective?
November 8, 2012 | Volume 8 | Issue 3
Table of Contents 

Field Notes

Setting a Common Course

Jessica Bohn

As districts and states prepare to implement Common Core curricula, instructional leadership is perhaps the most important area to affect student learning. Knowing how to implement, monitor, and assess a new curriculum can be daunting for any leader. How can principals ensure that teachers know and understand the content of the new curriculum? How can they effectively monitor delivery of the new curriculum in a meaningful way? The following tips, from a school principal in a state that has fully implemented the Common Core State Standards, can help.

1. Task Analysis

Principals should have their teachers break down the standards into meaningful skills or steps for mastery. For teachers to fully understand how to teach the new curriculum, they must understand what the standard is expecting students to know and be able to do. This means that teachers must have an in-depth knowledge of the competencies required by each standard, in terms of student learning. Educators must also understand the level of rigor required at each grade level within each domain.

To do this, teachers should create a task analysis for each standard and then look at each task analysis vertically (from grade to grade) and compare. A task analysis is the series of steps or concepts that students need to be able to do or understand to master the standard. For example, to master rounding to the nearest one hundredth, students have to first understand the concepts of place value, decimals/fractions, and greater than/less than. Subsequently, teachers can compare the domains vertically; for example, how does teaching rounding or regrouping look different from 3rd to 4th to 5th grade? This level of detailed analysis will provide an aligned curriculum to ensure student learning and student success. These actions are supported by the concepts outlined in the book Total Instructional Alignment by Lisa Carter.

2. Monitoring Tool


Principals need to monitor instruction in a way that provides useful information to teachers, administrators, and the entire staff collectively. Conducting walk-throughs is a typical part of any school principal's duties as an instructional leader, but conducting walk-throughs without collecting data or providing feedback accomplishes no more than making an appearance in a classroom.

Although many wonderful tools are available aimed at capturing what is seen in the classroom, it can be difficult to know which tools will be most effective. The effectiveness of walk-through tools is something that concerns Robert Marzano, who says in his video "Why Most Classroom Walk-Throughs Are Ineffective," "The walk-throughs I've seen focus on typically a very narrow range of instructional strategies." I believe that principals should develop their own walk-through tools, with input from teachers. We know that performance is enhanced when individuals have input about what the end product should look like. This is true for teachers and for students. When students are involved in creating a rubric to be used in the final grading of a project, they are more likely to perform better. Similarly, when teachers are involved in creating a tool for assessing walk-throughs, they tend to perform at the higher end of the standards in the walk-through instrument. What type of tool should principals begin with? This should be informed by the school's improvement plan and the data needed to support the school's mission.

The Instrument

I have seen many walk-through forms, look-for documents, and checklists that can be used to capture teaching and learning. I was never satisfied with any of them, particularly regarding what I needed to move my teachers to the next level. I felt as though many of the areas assessed required yes or no responses, rather than asking me—as an instructional leader—to assess the quality of teaching and learning. For example, one particular instrument had checkboxes for whole group, small group, cooperative learning, leveled readers, manipulatives, and so on. I found that the instrument did not provide my teachers or me with enough information. School leaders know that the use of manipulatives can vary greatly in quality of learning from classroom to classroom. Simply checking off "use of manipulatives" does not provide enough meaningful information.

Quality of Information

To be able to collect more qualitative data from my walk-throughs, I created a rubric-based instrument (PDF) that focused on only three key areas: A) student engagement, B) Common Core curriculum alignment, and C) differentiation. We chose these three areas as the focal points for our new instrument based on our school improvement plan and data from student surveys and informal walk-throughs. Within these three areas (A, B, and C), we defined five levels of competence: not demonstrated, developing, proficient, accomplished, and distinguished. Although these descriptors correlate to our state's teacher-evaluation instrument, they are meant to capture the level of performance within each of the three focal areas described. In the rubric, we then described indicators of what each level of performance looks like for each of the three focal areas.

Use of Walk-Through Data

When conducting walk-throughs, I circle the most appropriate level of performance in each of the focal areas. Both the teacher and the administrator receive a copy. Additionally, we can use the data (omitting teacher names) to see where we are schoolwide regarding student engagement, Common Core instruction, and differentiation. We then use this data to identify potential professional development needs for our staff.

When implementing Common Core curriculum, principals should delve into the curriculum with their teachers and employ creativity when developing their own instrument to capture instructional walk-throughs.


Robert Marzano's Videos:

Jessica Bohn, a principal in North Carolina, has formerly served as assistant principal, district curriculum specialist, science teacher, and assistant director at a university. She is passionate about STEM education and 21st century learning. Bohn is a member of ASCD's 2012 class of Emerging Leaders.


ASCD Express, Vol. 8, No. 3. Copyright 2012 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit


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