For decades, teachers were evaluated by a rather loose, low-stakes system. A supervisor may have visited your classroom once during the school year, and somehow that magically translated into a summative review of your entire practice.
Those times have changed, and teacher evaluation is now a high-stakes operation. Multiple observations are combined with data describing teacher practices outside the classroom (planning and professional responsibilities). These data must be combined with student achievement data. Summatively, all of these data points must be combined to create an overall picture of a teacher’s effectiveness.
While we can appreciate that a summative evaluation makes more sense when we have more data (rather than a single observation), the sheer amount of data can be overwhelming for teachers and supervisors alike. In particular, all of the data from a teacher’s practice must be considered holistically in order to paint an accurate picture. When it comes to the highly complex job of teaching, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
That reality leads to this simple but important question: how should teachers prepare for a summative evaluation meeting?
∙ Review the procedures around your observations throughout the year. Did the observation process meet state regulatory requirements of minimally one per semester, with preconferences for announced and post-conferences for both announced and unannounced? Were the meetings held within required time parameters?
∙ Review the observation data collected from your observations throughout the year. Was the data objective and free from opinion and bias? Were any low ratings justified with solid evidence? Did you present additional data to inform the observation and was that considered when discussing the ratings?
∙ Review your post-observation meetings from the school year. Per state regulations, you should have had one conference for each observation, held within 15 staff working days. During the meeting, your supervisor should have been “reviewing the data collected at the observation, connecting the data to the teacher practice instrument and the teacher’s individual professional development plan, collecting additional information needed for the evaluation of the teacher, and offering areas to improve effectiveness.” Were all of these aspects covered during the meeting?
∙ Review your collection of “behind the scenes” data—representative artifacts that paint a picture of your planning and preparation skills and your professional responsibilities. Have you been given an opportunity to self-assess and present artifact data to inform your ratings around this important work? Is the focus on high quality work, rather than volumes of “stuff”?
∙ Review your summative practice score. Was it logically created, following a summative scoring protocol that your district conveyed to all teachers by Oct. 1? Was it accurately developed and based on ratings or information supplied to you after each observation?
If the answers to any of these questions is “no,” you should consider how you broach these subjects with your supervisor, as the observation process may be considered flawed to such a degree that the observations are not valid. Be sure to address each point carefully and back up your concerns in writing so that you have clear documentation of your efforts. If your local association has an Evaluation Committee, consider contacting a member of that committee for assistance.
Rather than approaching the summative evaluation conference with trepidation, hard-working teachers across New Jersey should welcome a robust evaluation process that offers them an opportunity to showcase their efforts in a highly demanding profession. It is their diligence and professionalism that create exceptional learning opportunities for our students. Carried out properly, the new evaluation system will demonstrate that excellence.
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.