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Working Together for our Kids in Washington State

December 07, 2012

The Pacific Northwest Education Pathways team this week heard more about two projects underway to support new teacher principal evaluation work in Washington State.  

One grant was to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to support the development of a web based data management system for the evaluation process called eVAL. The tool is free to all districts.  Teachers and principals can load their goals, artifacts, student data, self-assessment and feedback on the data, as well as videos. For professional development, the National Board of Certified Teachers is working with Washington state to share videos from 10,000 teachers on best instructional practices and many of these videos are available on the eVAL platform.

The second grant was to the Association of Washington School Principals to create a leadership framework  and rubrics for the evaluation of principals. 

One of the keys to success has been implementing both systems—teachers and principals -- at the same time so that they can complement one another. There has been a strong partnership with all the major players— teachers, principals, superintendents, school board directors, Parent Teacher Association, Washington Education Association and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to work out the kinks in creating the new statewide system, which every school district must begin to implement by 2013-14 school year.  Right now, 226 of the 295 school districts have grants to begin implementation. 

The best part, as always, was hearing from the work that teachers and principals are doing in schools related to the new system.  We heard from Brian Vance, a principal in the Seattle Public  Schools, Mark Gardner, a teacher at Camas High School,  Jen Rose, a principal in the Bellevue School District and Phil Brockman, an Executive Director with Seattle Public Schools. Here is what they had to say:

What do you like about the new system?

“ The conversations are different. In the old days it was like a Seinfeld episode—a student turned in his paper and the teacher wrote back “vague” on the paper to which the student wrote back “unclear”.  Now we are having rich conversations with teachers around instruction. Teachers are taking an active part in the evaluation process rather than just signing their name to a slip of paper.”

“It is exciting to focus on professional growth because we all want to do better.”

“The rubrics help define the practices and where we fit in on the continuum and how to improve with very specific practices.”

“ The new system is calling out poor performance because they cannot provide evidence.”

What are the challenges?

“Putting the whole system together is hard work. We need the time to understand it and practice the work.”

“We can’t let this become a check list.”

 “Teachers have a lot of anxiety about change. We need to remind them that they are doing the right work already.”

“ Teachers worry it is just one more thing or a fad. We need to assure them that it is not going away and that and that the work around Common Core and Professional Learning Communities is embedded in evaluation.”

“Principals need the authority to make decisions they are responsible for such as hiring and budget.”

“On going inter-rater reliability.”

What is the role of technology?

“ The potential is limitless but also brings anxiety.”

“Teachers can watch videos on best practice from their homes after they put their kids to bed.”

“It provides a way for us to gather information and use it in an efficient manner.”

“At the end of the day it is still important to have great relationships.”

Where will we be in 5 years with this new system?

“We will have a clearer understanding of what it is to be a teacher and principal.”

“We will have figured out the role of non-assessment data.”

“We will have colleges of education training new teachers and principals on the system it becomes a part of their practice from day one.”

“We will know what effective practice looks like.”

The panel agreed that they would never go back to the old evaluation system.  The conversations through evaluation process are worth the investment.  We are moving away from a system that has looked the same for 100 years or more to one that will truly enhance the teaching profession and make a difference for our students.

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