Don’t wait for the end of the year to consider your summative evaluation

Sure it’s cold outside and the end of the year feels far, far away. But believe it or not, it’s time to be thinking about your summative evaluation.

No matter which teacher practice evaluation model your district is using, there is a standard or domain that deals with professional responsibilities (Standard 1 in McREL, Domain 4 in Danielson, Domains 3 and 4 in Marzano, Standard 6 in Stronge).

This is the “backstage” work of teaching – very little of it can be seen when visiting a classroom to conduct walk-throughs or observations. This is an evaluation area dealing with participation in the professional community, leading and collaborating, and practicing in an ethical manner. For many years, teachers have been evaluated on these criteria in a binary fashion: satisfactory or not. Now, part of the teacher evaluation process, professional responsibilities criteria must be examined and rated on (minimally) a four-level rubric.

Most of the evaluation models are rather generic when it comes to describing a teacher’s professional responsibilities. In school districts where the rubrics have not been further developed to provide concrete local examplars of effective and highly effective practice, both supervisors and teachers are understandably perplexed about what constitutes enough data for analysis and exactly what those data represent.

This has resulted in something I like to call “Shopping Bag Syndrome.” Just prior to the summative evaluation conference, teachers frantically grab documents that represent their professional practice throughout the school year. They haul reams of documentation into their evaluation conference. It’s time to change this practice: the issue is not quantity, but quality.

Consider the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. It houses millions of works of art spanning all of human history. It can’t possibly display everything! Instead, the curators choose a small percentage of its available artwork to exhibit in order to tell a specific story.

If you gathered every piece of paper or digital artifact that represents the work you do all year, it might fill a museum gallery as well! But this is both impractical and burdensome. Instead, you should curate – just as the Metropolitan Museum does – and carefully select a few items that represent the high quality of your professional responsibilities throughout the year.

If a supervisor tells you it’s not enough “stuff,” ask for a specific description of what is needed. If it’s just about collecting paper, you can easily do that. But how does that translate into effective and highly effective practice? Insist on clear exemplars for each of the professional responsibilities.

Why think about this in February? To avoid frantically scrambling through your files in June. This work is too important to be reduced to dumping reams of paper in shopping bags. Allow plenty of time to curate and gather a few exceptional examples of your practice that demonstrate your highly effective professionalism.

Dr. Stefani Hite is an outside consultant hired by NJEA to assist members with the transition to the new evaluation system. Her column appears monthly. Contact her below.

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