Teachers’ Opinions Should Count When Creating an Evaluation Model

My daughter Courtney will soon be graduating from college with a teaching degree in elementary education.  To gain real-world experience, she has spent the past six months shadowing a 4th grade teacher.

We recently spoke about how the teachers at this school feel about the principal’s periodic, unscheduled classroom visits, used to obtain a snapshot of how well teachers are engaging their students with their lesson plans.

While some teachers thrive on these impromptu classroom observations, saying these visits keep them on their toes and always prepared, others find it stressful trying to ensure students remain calm and attentive while the principal is in the room.  However, Courtney said, as the teachers develop a working relationship with the principal, the visits become less anxiety-provoking.

Teaching has always been a demanding profession, even more so today, with many states now mandating teacher evaluations.  In preparation for a 2012-13 Indiana requirement, one of our clients, Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS), has developed and put into practice a Four Step System of Support™ program that meets all state and Department of Education guidelines, including the directive that all Indiana school districts must have an annual, objective teacher evaluation system that is based on multiple measures and satisfies specific criteria.  Based on classroom observation and feedback, FWCS’s Four Step System of Support™ emphasizes providing support to make teachers better professionals, which ultimately leads to higher student achievement.

To discover how their teachers feel about this new program — Is it fair? Is it supportive of all instructional staff? Is it improving instruction? — K12 Insight conducted teacher focus groups, after which we worked with FWCS to jointly design a questionnaire to gather specific input on teachers’ experiences with the program.

All teachers deserve to have a voice, and they would undoubtedly appreciate being asked their thoughts on the program chosen as their evaluation tool. As my daughter Courtney discovered, teachers have strong, albeit differing, opinions. Other districts should think about following the FWCS model, implementing systems that both support and are supported by their teachers.

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