Another school year has started, and nearly every state
in the SREB region is facing major human capital challenges
including teacher shortages. Schools now face
shortages not only in STEM courses and special education but
in most subject areas.
Lessons learned from three years of work in 8 states
Providing real-time feedback and
growth opportunities to teachers — the real purpose of educator
effectiveness systems — means that school leaders have to
understand and value the skills to be instructional leaders
and be properly trained on those skills. In any career
path, professionals need to know how they’re doing and need help
honing their craft. Teaching is no different; teachers need a
coach, they need feedback.
As legislatures convene regular sessions, we at SREB have
observed an uptick in bills focused on school safety. Some
propose dramatic changes in the way school districts hire and
train security personnel, develop emergency plans, or address
students’ mental and emotional health. Others make technical
changes to standing laws in order to lower the barriers districts
face in creating safe learning environments.
High-quality teacher evaluations are an important component of comprehensive systems to ensure that all students are being taught by effective teachers. From evaluations, districts and states can generate data that can positively impact teachers and students in numerous ways. This is why states have invested so much in them – since 2009, 37 states have updated their evaluation systems – and why they are so important to get right.
The act of teaching is hard — but the ins and outs of being a teacher are hard too. When mentors work on professional growth goals without probing a teacher’s mindset or emotional health, skill development can become distracting, stressful and even counterproductive.
I’d like to tell you a story. It’s an important one for all of us who care about public education. I used to teach elementary school. At the end of my first year of teaching, I wasn’t happy with the school where I worked. So, I decided to explore beginning my second year of teaching somewhere else.
Last month, we shared a run-through of the work by Maryland and Oklahoma to better prepare principals. When I was teaching first grade, many times I participated in professional development sessions that left me bursting with ideas and excitement but left me unsure about my ability to effectively execute what I had learned the next week in my classroom.
Sometimes it can be difficult to make the transition from
knowing to doing when trying to apply
concepts to ground-level practice. This often holds true for many
kinds of learners – including students, teachers and even states.
State education agencies know that principals play an influential
role in the development of effective teachers and schools. But
how can states build a strong foundation in order to prepare
principals for this influential role? Similarly, practitioners
can probably agree that in theory, inter-state collaboration
yields great potential for learning. So how can they go about
actually engaging in it?
Teachers across the SREB region and the nation are wary of the
use of student growth scores in their evaluations. How can they
know with certainty that their evaluation score is a reflection
of how they taught the students in their class?
In spring 2014-15, 68 percent of Tennessee teachers reported that
evaluation improves teaching in their school and 63 percent said
it improves student learning. That is a drastic shift from when
Tennessee became the first state to implement a statewide,
multiple-measure teacher evaluation system that included a major
student growth component in 2011-12. How did they get to where
they are now?
Many states have focused their efforts to improve schools and
student achievement through the primary catalyst for change:
teachers and school leadership. They have determined that more
comprehensive teacher and leader evaluation systems are the
vehicle for this improvement. With a focus on increasing student
achievement, what is our purpose in teacher evaluation?
At our educator effectiveness convening, Emory University
professor Dirk Schroeder described the positive deviance approach
for studying positive outliers who can inspire solutions to
implementation challenges in education.
Accelerating improvement was the focus of the Carnegie
Foundation Summit I attended on March 2 – 4. Drawing on
examples from their own work, education leaders including
Commissioner Terry Holliday (KY), Superintendent Lillian Lowery
(MD) and Assistant Commissioner Emily Freitag (TN) taught us
about the core principles of improvement science: