Developing a vibrant faculty culture is the most important initiative to foster improved student learning at any school. Many factors contribute to this culture. The last post focused on 1) setting expectations, and this post on 2) observing performance. The next few post will explicate 3) evaluating performance, 4) developing individualized teacher improvement plans, and 5) supporting professional growth and renewal. The process is infused with regular coaching and mentoring surrounding these five steps and with hearty E) leadership and a supportive F) financial plan any school can emerge on a path toward more robust fulfillment of its mission
B) Observing and Evaluating Teacher Performance
An intentionally designed and diligently followed system for faculty observation, evaluation and feedback should be exercised in every school. The following principles and system design is a way to successfully carry out the objective of improving teacher performance. If a school has a good system, I suggest using it as a foundation and then incorporate the missing elements to make it work better. Before proposing a particular system, here are some general principles of evaluation from one of the foremost experts in the field.
“Focusing on the evaluation segment of this process, we [ISM] believe that effective teacher evaluation in the 21st century: 1) involves regular and timely feedback, coaching, and mentoring throughout the year (i.e., it is not a one-time event); 2) is anchored by an annual written evaluation that serves as a summary of the year’s coaching and mentoring conversations and guidance; 3) is seen as being predictable and supportive by faculty; 4) leads to identifying skill enhancement needs and growth opportunities; 5) helps identify mission-inappropriate, mediocre, toxic, and/or incompetent teachers; and 6) provides the school with legal protection (i.e., serves as “documentation” should a lawsuit or discrimination claim develop).” (See Ideas & Perspectives, Vol. 37 No. 2, Independent School Management. I recommend that each school subscribe to Consortium Membership with ISM to access articles like this and much more.)
The process at the combination of a couple of schools I have consulted works something like this. The division head is the main point of contact for the coaching/mentoring process that involves a lot of skill and time. S/he 1) meets weekly with each new teacher beginning the first week of school. This meeting begins the communication and feedback needed to improve teaching and forms the foundation for future coaching and mentoring. 2) The division head conducts formal observations of each new teacher 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarters while continuing teachers are formally observed in 1st and 2nd quarters. Ideally the process includes: a) a pre-observation meeting of 15 – 30 minutes with the division head for new teachers; b) a scheduled observation from 30 minutes to as much as a full class period of teaching; c) the division head fills out an observation form that should reflect clearly articulated expectations; and then d) conducts an interview and feedback discussion for teacher formation of about 30 minutes in a scheduled meeting. Additionally, the division head performs 3) the informal observation in which s/he intentionally attends to unannounced periods of observation of a duration sufficient to follow up with less formalized feedback a few times per quarter. Each contact should be briefly recorded in writing. This process provides an excellent foundation for continuous coaching and mentoring within the evaluation and growth cycle.
Prior to offering contacts for the next school year the division head performs 4) a summative evaluation. It should also include direct contact with the teacher for the purpose of coaching, mentoring and preparation of an individualized professional improvement plan. The vibrant faculty culture fosters an attitude of enthusiasm for every teacher to improve every year. Timing is important because the entire observation/evaluation process informs the decision about whether to continue with a teacher and a performance informed salary setting process.