Technology helps manage teacher quality initiatives

To meet the requirements of a new state law, 22 of Florida’s 67 school districts have adopted an online system called FASTe.

Across the country, states and school districts are grappling with how best to evaluate teachers and administrators in a way that is rigorous, yet fair—and gives them opportunities to grow professionally. That’s true in Florida, too, where the passage last year of Senate Bill 736, the Student Success Act, requires Florida school districts to revamp their evaluation systems for teachers and school leaders.

To meet the requirements of the new law, 22 of Florida’s 67 school districts have adopted an online system called FASTe, the Formative Action System for Teacher Effectiveness, from Winter Park, Fla.-based Performance Matters. The company was on hand at the Florida Educational Technology Conference to showcase its FASTe platform.

Performance Matters describes FASTe as “an easy-to-use online platform that connects student outcomes to educator actions.” Among the most recent Florida districts to purchase FASTe is Citrus County, which launched a pilot implementation in selected schools in December and plans to roll out the online platform across all 23 schools this fall.

“We’ve already received feedback from several administrators … that it is easy to use and that it enables them to note in a natural, genuine way what is happening every day in their classrooms,” said Patrick Simon, director of research and accountability. “FASTe … not only helps teachers to know what their strengths and weaknesses are, but it connects them to the resources they need to improve their practice. This will play a very important role in our ongoing efforts to improve teaching and learning.”

The FASTe framework collects data on student assessments, teachers’ professional development activities, observational outcomes, and other metrics. The program then correlates all the data to show the relative effect these activities are having on instruction and learning, and it connects educators to the resources or support they need to improve.

Another company that makes software to help with teacher evaluations is Netchemia of Kansas. Netchemia was at the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education to discuss how its web-based TalentEd Perform software is helping school leaders manage their teacher quality initiatives.

TalentEd Perform includes teacher self-evaluations, principal walkthroughs and observations, professional growth plans, and more. Analysis and reporting tools help school and district leaders measure evaluation results and track staff improvement. The software is extremely scalable, Netchemia said, noting that districts ranging in size from the 125-student Shell Knob School District in Missouri to Oklahoma’s Tulsa Public Schools are using the program.

Other professional development news

Audio/video solutions provider AVI-SPL is best known for its AV systems integration, but during FETC the company also highlighted its professional development offerings—including a Summer Institute for Technology Integration that it’s hosting along with Florida’s Pinellas County Schools. During this four-day training event, Dr. Jennifer Brown King will teach attendees how to integrate technology into instruction through a unique scaffolding technique known as the Technology Integration Plan (TIP). The training will take place July 23-26 in the Gulf Coast city of Dunedin, Fla., and is open to all teachers or instructional leaders. For more information, eMail

PBS TeacherLine says it has aligned all of its online professional development courses with the Common Core State Standards. That means all PBS TeacherLine reading and math courses now offer professional training and resources to help teachers develop lessons and deliver instruction based on the Common Core objectives, the company says. PBS TeacherLine offers more than 80 graduate-level online courses in reading, math, science, STEM, instructional strategies, and technology integration.

School Improvement Network showcased PD 360, an online professional development platform for educators with an online professional learning community of more than 822,000 verified educators. The company also promoted its Observation 360, a handheld observation and classroom walkthrough tool for administrators. Observation 360 (available on all Apple and Android devices) is the only classroom walkthrough tool with prescriptive technology, the company says. The prescriptive technology automatically recommends relevant training videos from PD 360’s on-demand library, based on observation results.

Sublime Learning announced that it has been selected to offer ongoing training and support for the Special Education Department in the Philadelphia School District, the nation’s eighth largest district. Sublime Learning’s eTeachables—libraries of web-based videos and training materials—will offer Philadelphia’s special-education department high-quality, on-demand professional development that focuses on integrating software and hardware already widely available in the district, the company said. eTeachables are available for Visual Learning and Inquiry-Based Learning for Interactive Whiteboards.

Teachscape has partnered with Charlotte Danielson, creator of the Framework for Teaching (FFT), to launch the Framework for Teaching Effectiveness Series and the Professional Learning Suite, Framework Edition, to help teachers apply the FFT to their teaching practice. FFT has become the industry standard for professional learning and teacher evaluations, and the Framework for Teaching Effectiveness Series gives school districts an online solution for training teachers on the structure and content of this model. The series includes self-guided training modules on the FFT, featuring videos of unedited, authentic K-12 classroom lessons in multiple subject areas.

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