The Burlington "Great Eight" Has Been Revised

When Burlington Public Schools began its implementation of the Massachusetts Model System for Educator Evaluation a few years ago, we decided that trying to focus on all 33 elements contained in the models teacher rubric would be a bit overwhelming. Instead, we decided to prioritize eight of these 33 elements to help staff feel a little less anxious and to help evaluators be a bit more focused. This year we have modified our “Great Eight” to include an element under the Cultural Proficiency indicator, which is part of Standard II (Teaching all Students). The element that we added is Respects Differences. The element that was dropped from the Great Eight was Student Motivation.  Of course, student motivation is still an important aspect of what we look for in our classrooms, but we feel that we still have an adequate focus on this area with the element on Student Engagement.

The Burlington Public Schools “Great Eight”


While we find value in looking for evidence of all of the 33 elements within the  MA Model System for Educator Evaluation, the eight elements numbered (and in bold) below are the ones that BPS educators will have as their primary focus.

The eight elements below will be the primary focus during the evaluation process:

Standard I: Curriculum, Planning, and Assessment. The teacher promotes the learning and growth of all students by providing high-quality and coherent instruction, designing and administering authentic and meaningful student assessments, analyzing student performance and growth data, using this data to improve instruction, providing students with constructive feedback on an ongoing basis, and continuously refining learning objectives.

Indicator I-A. Curriculum and Planning: Knows the subject matter well, has a good grasp of child development and how students learn, and designs effective and rigorous standards-based units of instruction consisting of well-structured lessons with measurable outcomes.

  • #1 – I-A-1. Subject Matter Knowledge (Proficient) Demonstrates sound knowledge and understanding of the subject matter and the pedagogy it requires by consistently engaging students in learning experiences that enable them to acquire complex knowledge and skills in the subject.
  • #2 – I-A-3. Rigorous Standards-Based Unit Design (Proficient) Designs units of instruction with measurable outcomes and challenging tasks requiring higher-order thinking skills that enable students to learn the knowledge and skills defined in state standards/local curricula.
  • #3 – I-A-4. Well-Structured Lessons (Proficient) Develops well-structured lessons with challenging, measurable objectives and appropriate student engagement strategies, pacing, sequence, activities, materials, resources, technologies, and grouping.

Indicator I-B. Assessment: Uses a variety of informal and formal methods of assessments to measure student learning, growth, and understanding to develop differentiated and enhanced learning experiences and improve future instruction.

  • #4 – I-B-2. Adjustment to Practice (Proficient) Organizes and analyzes results from a variety of assessments to determine progress toward intended outcomes and uses these findings to adjust practice and identify and/or implement appropriate differentiated interventions and enhancements for students.

Standard II: Teaching All Students. The teacher promotes the learning and growth of all students through instructional practices that establish high expectations, create a safe and effective classroom environment, and demonstrate cultural proficiency.

Indicator II-A. Instruction: Uses instructional practices that reflect high expectations regarding content and quality of effort and work; engage all students; and are personalized to accommodate diverse learning styles, needs, interests, and levels of readiness.

  • #5 – II-A-2. Student Engagement (Proficient) Consistently uses instructional practices that are likely to motivate and engage most students during the lesson.

Indicator II-C. Cultural Proficiency. Actively creates and maintains an environment in which students’ diverse backgrounds, identities, strengths, and challenges are respected.

  • #6 – II-C-1. Respects Differences (Proficient) Consistently uses strategies and practices that are likely to enable students to demonstrate respect for and affirm their own and others’ differences related to background, identity, language, strengths, and challenges. 


Standard III: Family and Community Engagement. The teacher promotes the learning and growth of all students through effective partnerships with families, caregivers, community members, and organizations.

Indicator III-A. Engagement: Welcomes and encourages every family to become active participants in the classroom and school community.

  • #7 – III-A-1. Parent/Family Engagement (Proficient) Uses a variety of strategies to support every family to participate actively and appropriately in the classroom and school community.


Standard IV: Professional Culture. The teacher promotes the learning and growth of all students through ethical, culturally proficient, skilled, and collaborative practice.

Indicator IV-C. Collaboration: Collaborates effectively with colleagues on a wide range of tasks.

  • #8 – IV-C-1. Professional Collaboration (Proficient) Consistently and effectively collaborates with colleagues in such work as developing standards-based units, examining student work, analyzing student performance, and planning appropriate intervention.

Now The Fun Starts!

This post originally appeared on the Burlington Public Schools Evaluation Blog

It only took half of the school year, but we are finally ready to start focusing our evaluation discussions on best practices! While I know that these conversations take place frequently among teachers daily, the most exciting part of implementing a new teacher evaluation process is the opportunity to put mechanisms in place to amplify and focus the conversations surrounding best practices.  While we have talked about our hopes for a widespread discussion among BPS educators focused on the Great Eightthe reality is that the first half of the school year has been focused on increasing awareness of the process and supporting staff in the development of goals and learning about the technology that will be utilized to archive and share evidence.

However, with deadlines approaching for some staff to share evidence of meeting goals and standards with their evaluators, I am excited that staff members will have the opportunity to share the variety of ways that they meet and exceed the standards that are in place. Our first focal point will be evidence regarding the Family and Community Engagement standard (Standard 3).  Teachers without professional teacher status (non-PTS) will need to share 2-3 artifacts with their evaluator showing evidence of meeting this standard. Of course, they may share other pieces of evidence related to meeting any of the Great Eight and/or their goals, but the immediate focus will be on Standard 3. We also encourage teachers with professional teacher status to start archiving evidence as well, but the deadline for this is a few months away.

In order to support all staff in this process and to facilitate a conversation to share the numerous ways that BPS educators meet all of the standards, we will be dedicating our February 12th Professional Development time at the elementary level to this work. We will also be utilizing faculty meeting time at the middle and high school level to do similar activities. 

In the meantime, please check out the suggestions in the document below for some concrete examples of how educators can show evidence of meeting the Family and Community Engagement Standard. 

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Our Main Goal For Unannounced Observations…

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“Unannounced observations” –  Let’s admit that the idea of such a thing for brings about at least a minimal amount of internal unrest for educators.  Personally, i am reminded of the game hide and seek and the announcement that the seeker makes – “ready or not, here I come!”  However, creating unrest and distrust on the part of teachers is not the way to improve teaching and learning in our classrooms. The way to accomplish this is to create more opportunities to share and discuss best practice. 

Our main goal from the outset of this new teacher evaluation system has been to create more conversations around teaching and learning. Please keep this in mind as  we head into the unchartered waters of “unannounced observations” in Burlington. This is not intended to be a game of “gotcha” where evaluators walk into teachers classrooms when they least expect it.  This is intended to be an opportunity for all of us to share examples of the 
Burlington Public Schools Great Eight  in action.  We look forward to sharing in those discussions!

Stay tuned for the next post which will share a few of the logistics of Unannounced Observations. 

Old News – Schools Have Dropped The Ball On Teacher Evaluation

Before I get into the specifics on this, I will put out a disclaimer that there may be outliers who feel that they have a meaningful process for conducting teacher evaluations.  I am confident that there are some school communities out there who have initiated teacher evaluation processes that increase teacher capacity and improve student learning. Unfortunately, history has proven that these school communities are extremely rare.

One great reference point on this is a report completed in 2009 by The New Teacher Project titled The Widget Effect.  This comprehensive study looked at 15,000 teachers and 1,300 administrators from the states of Ohio, Arkansas, Illinois, and Colorado. Here are the main points from the Executive Summary that are worth some thought:

  • In districts that use binary evaluation ratings (generally “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory”), more than 99 percent of teachers receive the satisfactory rating. 
  • When all teachers are rated good or great, those who are truly exceptional cannot be formally identified. 
  • 73 percent of teachers surveyed said their most recent evaluation did not identify any development areas, and only 45 percent of teachers who did have development areas identified said they received useful support to improve.
  • 66 percent of novice teachers in districts with multiple ratings received a rating greater than “satisfactory” on their most recent performance evaluation
  • 41 percent of administrators reporting that they have never “nonrenewed” a probationary teacher for performance concerns in his or her final probationary yea

Looking at the data from such a comprehensive study it is clear that Teacher Evaluation has been looked at as just another thing on the lengthy to-do list in most schools instead of a critical component in school improvement. We can talk semantics and look at the word “evaluation” and the fact that it infers that something is going to be done to the individual being evaluated and not a two-way conversation where teachers and administrators work together to collectively to improve individual classroom and school-wide outcomes.

The following statement from the Executive Summary of the The Widget Effect  explains clearly where the focus of teacher evaluation has been:

“…information on teacher performance is almost exclusively used for decisions related to teacher remediation and dismissal paints a stark picture: In general, our schools are indifferent to instructional effectiveness—except when it comes time to remove a teacher.”

Schools that have success in changing this focus and having a teacher evaluation that is meaningful will be ones where administrators and teachers partner to ensure regular focused discussions around teaching and learning.  Given the amount of collaboration in most schools, this will prove to be a cultural change as much as it is a technical change.  However, with studies citing the average tenure of a school superintendent or principal in the vicinity of three years (with larger districts and schools averaging less), it is clear to me that if administrators are taking too much control then sustainability will be impossible.

Now that I’ve looked at a bit of the history surrounding teacher evaluations and despite some big concerns, I will focus on some of the reasons I am optimistic about this undertaking in my next post.

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The New Massachusetts Framework for Educator Evaluation – What are the goals?

In my last post, I asked the following questions about our states new evaluation system:  

Will all of this work being done by schools across the state to change the way we do teacher evaluation result in more engaging learning environments that prepare our students for the ever-evolving job market in the “real” world? Is that even the goal of this whole undertaking?

So here is what the state Board of Education stated as its objectives when it voted to adopt a new model for teacher evaluation:

  • Promote growth and development amongst leaders and teachers,
  • Place student learning at the center, using multiple measures of student learning, growth, and achievement,
  • Recognize excellence in teaching and leading,
  • Set a high bar for professional teaching status, and
  • Shorten timelines for improvement.
A member of the Massachusetts Task Force on the Evaluation of Teachers and Administrators also stated the following:

“More than anything, evaluation systems should be recognizing, developing, and promoting the most talented and successful educators. We need an approach to evaluation that is all about celebrating excellence, and ensuring that those who excel also thrive in their workplaces, and stay in education.”

While I agree with most of the bullets and the majority of the statement above, I think it is important that we take a step back and look at how we got to the point where our state and most other states have started to overhaul their teacher evaluation procedures.  We have to be sure to recognize the fact that a change of this nature is as much an adaptive (cultural) change for teachers as it is a technical change. Educational communities that embrace this fact and implement a transparent approach centered around focused conversations about teaching and learning will see success. If the focus is purely on meeting the new timelines and ensuring that every one of the 33 indicators is checked off then the results impact on teaching and learning will be limited.

Before I discuss some of the specific things that I think will help us make the transition to a new evaluation system successful, I think it is important to talk about why we are here. My next post will discuss how the poor job that schools have done evaluating teachers has gotten us to this point.

Boston Globe Headline Does Not Apply To Burlington

As I drove into work this morning, I heard the headline above on the morning news show on the radio and thought about how this might confuse folks a bit.  The news story referenced an article in today’s Boston Globe about the impending deadline for many schools districts across the state to come to an agreement with unions about new evaluation procedures. So I wanted to set the record straight as to where Burlington stands in regards to the new teacher evaluation system that all schools will have to implement by the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
The deadline of September 1, 2012 applies to all schools that receive Race to the Top funds, which according to the article is 235 school districts. For the remaining school districts, the new evaluation system will need to be implemented by September 1, 2013.  
Stay tuned for more information on this as Burlington administrators and teachers work on creating a shared vision of what this new evaluation system will look like.
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