I have been evaluating teachers for 21 years, all the way back to a time when I was required to assess a teacher’s hygiene and appearance as “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.” Thankfully, we have progressed as a profession.
Charlotte Danielson’s work that synthesized research on effective teaching and put it all together in a rubric form was published in 1996. It took several years for her work to make its official way to San Luis Obispo, California, where I work as an elementary principal. I know that for years, many administrators here were unofficially using her work to evaluate the work of teachers. Eventually, the district made the leap to accept the four domains (planning, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities) and 32 components. Just two years ago, we abandoned “satisfactory/unsatisfactory” ratings in favor of “unsatisfactory, basic, proficient and distinguished.”
Last year was our pilot year for collecting data/evidence of teachers’ work as it related to specific components and then scoring with the four level rubric. Data collection was all done by analog scripting and note-taking. When it came time for us administrators to write up our evaluations, we were faced with collating and reviewing piles of handwritten feedback cards and two-column legal pad notes. Hearing the complaints from administrators on increased workload and time commitment, our district purchased a software solution called TeachScape.
Seven uninterrupted hours?
There are three components to this software. One is a series of videos of teachers teaching with commentaries on how the video evidence relates to the rubric. All of us were required to watch the videos and then pass the assessment piece at the end. What I didn’t know was that the assessment piece itself requires seven hours of uninterrupted time! I arrived at this point in the training module a few days before school started. Well, it’s a month later and somehow those seven uninterrupted hours have eluded me. Nonetheless, having made it through all the videos, and given my previous experience with the framework, I feel qualified and calibrated at this time.
The second component is a digital communication system for sharing data and observational notes with teachers. Implementation glitches abound. First of all, it’s tough when the software is not intuitively designed. You know what I mean? (Apparently Apple engineers were involved elsewhere when this product was designed.) To their credit, the TeachScape folks are attentive and helpful. They actually answer the helpline when you call and speak understandable English! But there are terminology problems. What I call a walk-through is, to TeachScape, apparently something much more structured. And I am just now trying to figure out why I would have to “schedule” an informal observation—wouldn’t that make it formal’?
In addition, it seems our district hasn’t purchased all the right modules that allow us to input data. I don’t want to start the arduous process of entering all my handwritten notes and observations in one place and then, at the end of the year, find there are two different systems to collate. These issues may be solved by our new personnel director, who has taken over as the single point of contact for getting questions and glitches addressed. She calls the helpline on our behalf, and she is learning the system along with us.
TeachScape’s third component? At this point, I do not know exactly what it does. Heck, I’m still looking high and low for those seven uninterrupted hours.
How will this all end up? Who will save us? Will we be saved? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Evaluate Me!” Coming soon!