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An assistant superintendent explains how her district adopted video for teacher evaluations and why she expects more districts to do the same

Prediction: The future of teacher evaluations is video

An assistant superintendent explains how her district adopted video evaluations for teachers, and why she expects more districts to do the same in the coming years

Over the last two years, educators have been forced into all kinds of unplanned experiments as we’ve searched for ways to keep students safe while continuing to advance their education amid a global pandemic.

At the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township, we’ve found that one of the pandemic-related changes we’ll be keeping around is the use of video for teacher evaluations. I think it’s a change we’ll see a lot of other districts making in the next year or two as well.

Based on our experience, here’s how I can see it playing out across the country.

1. Teachers will overcome anxieties about video evaluations.

We hadn’t planned on using video to evaluate our teachers. A grant we secured nearly 5 years ago through the Teacher and School Leader (TSL) Incentive Program provided us access to the ADVANCEfeedback® platform, which we first used for instructional coaching.

At the outset, we weren’t really sure how to best use the platform and, to be honest, we were nervous about it. I think many of us are a little uncomfortable with the idea of being recorded on video. When you pile on making that recording at your place of work—and then asking people to watch and reflect on that recording by earmarking a timestamp and sharing their thoughts about what they’ve captured—you’re really asking people to put themselves out there.

So, we started slowly, by asking our teachers to submit 10-minute clips of themselves teaching, along with a bit of reflection about the clip. Some of our teachers, and even entire schools, really dove in and started recording and sharing a lot of videos. As we dug in across our district, we started using it more and more because we saw our teachers reflecting more and providing more self-reflecting feedback on their own to better their craft. 

Over the course of remote learning, many of us became much more comfortable being on video simply because we were forced to. Teachers may still be a little anxious about the idea of being evaluated through a video, but at most districts around the country they’ve had a year to get used to the idea of their lessons being recorded, and this should be less of a barrier for districts moving forward.

2. Unions will see the value of tech tools that support teachers.

Our teachers’ union has been very supportive of our use of video for instructional coaching from the beginning. Asking teachers to create and submit only short clips at the beginning undoubtedly helped, but when the pandemic struck, we had to have a conversation with them about the practice. Our teachers already had trust in the process, they have always had control over which videos to share and who is able to see them.

Just like other schools across the country, we were worried about how we would carry on our work. When it came to teacher evaluations, ADVANCEfeedback was an obvious short- and long-term solution for us. We met with the union and told them we had this platform that had been delivering great value for us and that would allow us to maintain some sense of normalcy at a time when it felt like everything was so chaotic.

It did help that our teachers were so happy with the process, which simply required them to record their practice. They now get targeted, individualized feedback on the exact concerns they have about their practice—without the intrusive and distracting nature of having an observer in the room with them. Teachers are always going to be either your greatest supporters or your biggest detractors in any district-wide initiative, and because they were solidly on board, so was the union.

3. Video will expand the scope of PD and PLCs.

Over the years that teachers have been sharing their videos, we’ve been able to create a library of best practices created by our teacher leaders. These are always accessible to our teachers, created by colleagues they trust and respect, and rooted in our district’s culture and context. Just as our teachers can use our feedback platform to create a video on a topic they’re struggling with, upload it, and receive support, our instructional leaders can create exemplar videos on the gradual release model to share when they notice other teachers struggling in a particular area.

The ability to provide video feedback has also expanded who can offer coaching or attend professional learning communities. As an assistant superintendent with nine buildings in our district, my ability to sit in on meetings was logistically challenging before. Now I can join a meeting in one building and be at another in a school on the other side of the district immediately after.

We consistently hear feedback from administrators and lead teachers that using video feedback has enabled our district to make improvements beyond what we originally thought possible. I’m eager to see its use spread in the near future and to learn how other districts are using it to improve teaching and learning for their students.

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