Principal evaluation: The next big reform?

Are principals not effective instructional leaders?


As states and districts have worked tirelessly to implement teacher effectiveness initiatives, largely driven by new and more rigorous teacher evaluation systems, the topic of principal evaluation has begun to take a more prominent role in the conversation.

And although principal evaluation is not a new concept, it is a fundamentally different conversation than it was several years ago. The field’s conception of what is possible relative to evaluative processes (i.e., using student achievement data to evaluate effectiveness) has significantly changed how we approach the process of evaluating both teachers and school leaders.

Several states and districts have begun to tackle the issue head on, working to ensure a rigorous and fair evaluation process is in place for school leaders. In fact, it appears that reform of principal evaluation systems is based, at least in part, on the fact that teacher evaluation systems have highlighted gaps in the effectiveness of school leaders to evaluate teachers effectively. Does this mean principals are not effective instructional leaders?  Perhaps not.

However, it has signaled to the field that there is work to be done when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of leaders in our schools. When coupled with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which require exceptional instructional leadership, the field is ripe for examining how to ensure that principals are indeed effective at supporting teachers in the very important work of serving the students in their classrooms.

(Next page: Examining teacher evaluation effectiveness )


App of the week: eduClipper

educlipperName: eduClipper

What is it? A free educational social platform for educators and students. This app makes it easy for educators and students to explore, share and create content. Users are able to save time, build personal learning networks, and begin to shift the culture of assessment to be more holistic. Created by an educator, eduClipper has been adopted by more than 250,000 unique users since launching in 2013.

Best for: All students and teachers

Price: FREE

Rated: 4+

Requirements: Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPad. See Google marketplace for Android compatibility.


  • Explore education resources for K-12
  • Create clips from the web, Drive and Dropbox
  • Use your camera to capture work that you create
  • Create differentiated groups and share content with them
  • Create Personal Learning Portfolios
  • Create Class Portfolios as a teacher and share Assignments with students
  • Provide feedback through video, audio, text, badges, or grades
  • Collaborate with other users on eduClipboards for class projects or personal interests

Link: [Apple]



10 changes a school library must consider in the digital era

Library administration is changing…fast. Here’s what you need to know to keep your school library relevant

library-digital-school School libraries have come a long way from card catalogs, thanks to surges in education technology. But besides re-categorizing, how can libraries support an increasingly digital education? According to experts, there are roughly 10 changes library administration should make to keep up with schools’ digital transition.

“We learned in ‘library school’ that you have to collect, preserve, organize, and disseminate,” said Michelle Luhtala, head librarian at New Canaan High School in Connecticut. “But that’s rapidly changing, especially over the last five years or so.”

According to Luhtala, there are 10 ways the school library administration either has changed, or needs to change:

(Next page: Library changes 10-7)


Amplify unveils new curriculum to ‘transform’ teaching

Amplify aims to put a charge into teaching and learning with its debut of a new all-digital curriculum for teaching English Language Arts


AmplifyELA will be ready for purchase by the start of the 2014-15 school year.

Amplify, the ed-tech company owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., is best known for creating a line of education-focused tablet computers.

But that could change with its March 3 introduction of a new English Language Arts curriculum that “eliminates the need for textbooks altogether,” said Amplify CEO Joel Klein.

In a special briefing for the press on Feb. 28, Klein—former chancellor of New York City’s schools—said only “great, rich content” would accelerate the use of technology in schools.

That’s what Amplify has aimed to create with AmplifyELA, a fully digital curriculum for ELA instruction in grades 6-8.

“This is not some old wine in a new bottle, like a digitized textbook with a few animations,” said Klein. “We’ve brought together world-class instructional materials, rich multimedia, and a powerful analytics engine that will transform the way teachers teach and students learn.”

The Amplify curriculum includes a full year’s worth of scoped and sequenced materials with the Common Core in mind, featuring lessons on personal narratives, fiction, informational texts, poetry, and foundational documents.

Lessons include video clips of dramatic readings, such as actor Chadwick Boseman reading a passage from Frederick Douglass’s autobiography; story animations by Academy Award-winning animators; and “quests,” or experiential lessons that immerse students in texts through role-playing, close reading, evidence gathering, and discussion.

(Next page: Examples of ‘quests’—and what makes the new Amplify curriculum truly unique)


Successful eLearning begins with well-prepared teachers

Preparing future teachers for success helps drive the success of the students they will teach


Gardner-Webb University began delivering its new online curriculum using Teachscape’s professional learning system in fall 2013.

When the state of North Carolina dramatically reduced textbook funding, yet decided it would implement the Common Core State Standards, our School of Education at Gardner-Webb University decided to fast-track a program to make all teacher preparation courses textbook-free.

We did this with the goal of preparing our students for the environment they would experience when they enter the teaching field, as well as to better equip them to meet the digital expectations that will be asked of them once they graduate.

In addition to going textbook-free, we also wanted to find a way to better capture student data in order to track student progress and focus on accreditation and continuous improvement.

To address the needs of this two-pronged initiative, we chose Teachscape’s online, video-based tools, because they would allow our student teachers to access courses online, view best practices of teaching in action, and reflect on their own teaching—all of which are essential in preparing future teachers for success in the field.

These tools additionally would provide our college’s professors with more opportunities to review students’ teaching and target their instruction accordingly, and they would allow our college’s administration to evaluate the teacher preparation program as a whole based on student data collected.

We began to deliver our new online curriculum using Teachscape’s professional learning system in the Fall 2013 semester. The curriculum, which integrates research-based courses from Teachscape, helps teachers reinforce key concepts being taught in class. Teachers use the system to deliver the courses, track and monitor student learning progress, and provide targeted instruction as needed.

We are now also heavily using iPads with our students. In addition to being able to use the devices to access the online curriculum, students use iPads to capture video of their own teaching. After being uploaded to Teachscape’s system, students view and reflect on actual footage of their student-taught micro lessons in the classroom setting. They use the videos to collaborate with peers on instructional best practices and share the videos with their professors to receive meaningful feedback.

(Next page: How students and professors have responded)