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We have to do what? The new face of teacher evaluations

Technology is key to successful teacher evaluations

teacher-evaluations As someone you’d politely call a “veteran educator,” I’ve been fortunate to work in schools for more than a quarter century, and in that time, like all of us in school leadership, I’ve seen many ideas come and go, often without lasting impact–or even much temporary effect–on our daily work. Even veteran educators, however, will admit that new teacher evaluation laws are what they call “a game changer”—one of those professional events that could not help but get our attention.

In 2011, our work changed dramatically. Teacher effectiveness laws put into place during a wave of legislative action in more than 20 states ultimately magnified a focus on the teacher evaluation process and asked hard questions about what we expect–and what we inspect–about the work of teaching and learning in public schools. Our best common sense, and even some research, tells us that the quality and outcomes of a child’s learning are often greatly impacted by the strength—or weakness—of his or her teachers. Thus, this heightened focus on how we define teacher effectiveness, and how we develop it, is not unimportant.

For most of my career, I can honestly say that I did not experience teacher evaluation as a serious event in the life of a school. Evaluations might consist of a principal or department chair colleague coming briefly into my class, watching a lesson, and writing up a narrative or checking a list of skills I showed. As I became more experienced, this process gave way to a brief conversation about my annual goals and a nice narrative paragraph thanking me for my service. Some colleagues I know went years without anyone actually watching them teach or talking to them about the results of their work with students. New law requires annual evaluation for every licensed working teacher in our state based on multiple measures including classroom observations and documented results of student learning. Did I say game change?

(Next page: The changing face of teacher evaluations)

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