As part of our continuous improvement cycle at the Network for Educator Effectiveness, we review what happened during the year’s training to inform decisions about future training. We have completed an initial analysis of the NEE Year One training sessions that occurred during the summer of 2020.  Here’s a breakdown of what we’ve learned and what it means moving forward.  

NEE Year One trainings are designed for instructional leaders who are new to NEE. Our Year One trainings build an understanding of NEE and give participants the opportunity to interact with our evaluation measures. The first-year training process is a chance to introduce and immerse each evaluator into the psychometric process and frame of mind to begin building the skills that will create an environment for accurate observations of effective teaching practices.  

As with most things in 2020, the NEE Year One training season was not typical. We were not able to offer our typical two-day, in-person training sessions. Instead, NEE offered one-day training sessions that combined synchronous and asynchronous learning in a virtual setting.  

NEE had the opportunity to reimagine our training in 2020 and, out of necessity, we designed fully online training sessions. This change resulted in pros and cons that will help inform our future training practices.  

First, let’s focus on the positives. We hosted four Year One sessions, all in August. That’s in contrast to a typical summer, where we host dozens of in-person Year One training sessions throughout the summer. Therefore, our four trainings – capped at 100 participants each – were much larger than is typical. To help facilitate interactions and discussions, we ensured all NEE Member Services staff members could attend each session. Instead of one instructor leading a session, we had five instructors co-teaching with participants. One instructor could give verbal guidance, while others could monitor the chat and answer questions, offer further insights on specific topics, or monitor the process and completion of different points of training. This structure allowed us to build on our ability to provide exceptional customer service.  

Also, with the mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning time, we were able to guide participants through some processes in a structured setting while also providing them the flexibility to address other duties and needs during the day. Since NEE’s inception, we have looked for ways to move training to more of an on-demand format, and doing the synchronous/asynchronous combination was one of the most successful experiences we have had with that option.  

There were also drawbacks. Most importantly, the shortened training format drastically cut down the amount of time participants had to practice and calibrate on classroom observations. Conducting classroom observations is a skill and takes both guided and independent practice. We were not able to provide the same level of practice this year as in past years. We also know classroom observations look remarkably different for many instructional leaders this year. Those considerations will be another influence in our training design for 2021 summer training.  

We have yet to find a satisfactory way to incorporate all measures available through NEE into one summer training session. We know the importance of each evaluation measure – professional development plans, units of instruction, student surveys, and classroom observations – and how they, when used together, provide the most comprehensive measure of teaching effectiveness. Yet, honestly, it’s too much to pack into a two-day training session, much less a one-day training session. So we have given precedence to classroom observations, in order to provide training for the guided practice and rich discussions that need to occur with those. That decision leaves the other measures less-explored. To help with that, we have made on-demand trainings available through EdHub, our professional development library. These modules – which can be found in the NEE Training Materials section of the EdHub library – provide foundational information, walkthroughs of each process, and guidance for how to begin, continue, and complete each measure. As schools move into the winter months, it is important to refresh your understanding of the measures your district uses before evaluating that measure or completing the summative report.  

New this year, we have also committed to a Community of Practice for first-year NEE evaluators. At 4 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month, we hold a discussion of NEE concepts and instructional leadership in general to provide more support to the newest instructional leaders within our network. Our next meeting is scheduled for January 12

For more information on the EdHub on-demand trainings or on the community of practice for first-year NEE evaluators, please feel free to email me at

Tom Hairston is the Managing Director of the Network for Educator Effectiveness. Tom has worked with NEE since 2011. Prior to his work with NEE, he worked for two years as a Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports Consultant for the Heart of Missouri Regional Professional Development Center at the University of Missouri. He began his career in education as a high school special education and language arts teacher and football coach at Moberly High School in Moberly, Mo. Tom received his PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri in 2012. 

The Network for Educator Effectiveness (NEE) is a simple yet powerful comprehensive system for educator evaluation that helps educators grow, students learn, and schools improve. Developed by preK-12 practitioners and experts at the University of Missouri, NEE brings together classroom observation, student feedback, teacher curriculum planning, and professional development as measures of effectiveness in a secure online portal designed to promote educator growth and development.