Last week, APA Division 15 published a new practice brief, Addressing Teacher Evaluation Appropriately.

The brief makes two main recommendations for teacher evaluations:

  • Practices should prioritize teachers’ professional growth and development
  • Practices should recognize the context and complexity of teaching

In this blog post, we’ll share the connections between the authors’ recommendations for teacher evaluation and the Network for Educator Effectiveness’ existing evaluation practices.

Practices should prioritize teachers’ professional growth and development, such as:

Consider teacher concerns and needs.

The NEE Data Tool is modular in nature, allowing schools to determine the teaching practices on which they want to focus their growth efforts and select the related indicators to be used during classroom observations. NEE member schools begin with classroom observations and can select additional evaluation measures available through NEE, including a teacher professional development plan, student survey, unit of instruction, and student growth data. When combined, these measures provide a full picture of how effective teaching practices are utilized in the school.

NEE recommends that principals gather data on teacher concerns through the self-reflection components built into the teacher professional development plan and the unit of instruction as well as during post-observation conferences. That information can be triangulated with the results of student surveys. The NEE Indicator Trend report assists the building principal and faculty team in identifying the indicators on which they most need to focus. The same data can help determine when improvement efforts have succeeded, and the school can then look for a new area of improvement to pursue.

Emphasize formative feedback and individual growth.

NEE’s evaluation processes are formative in nature and are focused on guiding teacher improvement efforts. Although the components can be scored and the scores transfer to a summative report, opportunities for revision, growth, and improvement are woven throughout the process.

Principals confer with each teacher after every classroom observation. During conferences, the principal coaches the teacher to examine the elements of the instructional practice that were observed and/or were missing, identify any professional learning that is needed, and develop goals for changing instructional practices. The professional development plan formalizes the teacher’s goals and allows the teacher to document the learning and growth that are achieved during the school year. In addition, each year’s results are used to advise the next in terms of teacher goals for learning and improvement of specific instructional skills.

Growth over time is apparent in reports such as the teacher’s Indicator Trend Report. NEE has found that the comparison of teachers detracts from improvement efforts. To this end, NEE does not provide comparison scores for school buildings, districts, or states. However, individual schools can examine the building average of classroom observation scores on each indicator to inform their future improvement goals and efforts.

Connect teachers with opportunities to improve their efficacy and effectiveness.

NEE provides members with EdHub, an online professional development library of materials that directly support the instructional skills associated with the NEE indicators. The library modules provide teachers and administrators with a summary of the pertinent research explaining why a particular instructional strategy is important and effective in supporting student success.

The learning modules explore how teachers make effective use of the strategies in their instructional practice and provide practical suggestions teachers can use in their classrooms. Teachers complete a “learning organizer” to summarize their learning about a particular instructional practice. They reflect on their current teaching and create an action plan for incorporating the new practice or increasing its use. The action plan might include peer observations, classroom trials, etc. The principal follows up with additional classroom observations, which might lead to additional learning cycles focused on the instructional practice.

Practices should recognize the context and complexity of teaching, such as:

Acknowledge content.

Although content areas and grade levels differ from each other in some ways, the elements of effective instruction do not. If students are to learn, they must be cognitively engaged regardless of the subject. Instruction that is guided by formative assessment is more efficient in any subject area and allows the teacher to provide immediate clarification for students who don’t understand. To assist principals in conducting effective observations, NEE provides scoring practice and exemplar videos from all grade levels and many content areas. The videos help principals learn what the effective use of an instructional practice looks like in any content area or grade level.

Honor context.

Rather than conducting one or two observations lasting a full class period, NEE recommends 6 to 10, short observations spread out over the school year. NEE recommends that classroom observations be unscheduled to ensure that principals develop a clear understanding of what day-to-day instruction looks like in each classroom. It is also recommended that observations for a particular teacher be conducted at a variety of times and on different days of the week as these factors can affect instructional practice. In schools that utilize the Unit of Instruction as an evaluation measure, principals conduct at least one observation during the time when the teacher is teaching their unit. These practices allow the principal to combine multiple slices of data over time. Each observation measures the use of effective teaching practices against the criterion-referenced rubrics developed by NEE.

Provide professional development opportunities for principals.

Building administrators attend yearly NEE training sessions to reinforce their skills in using the NEE classroom observation rubrics and recalibrate their scoring with other administrators and master scores to build accuracy. In addition to polishing their evaluative skills, NEE provides in-depth explanations of the connections between educational research and the NEE indicators. This ongoing training aids the administrator in developing a deep understanding of the role each indicator plays in effective instruction and student learning.

The training sessions also provide instruction and practice on identifying professional development needs, coaching teachers for instructional improvement, and supporting teachers in locating professional development materials and opportunities. Every administrator who will be entering scores for teachers into the NEE Data Tool must complete a qualifying exam each year. The exam requires the individual to score specific instructional practices against the NEE criterion-based rubrics. NEE tracks and analyzes the exam scores each year to inform decisions about the content of upcoming administrator training sessions.

Professional growth for school administrators also is encouraged through use of the NEE Principal Evaluation Model. NEE offers school districts additional components to promote and track the instructional leadership abilities of building administrators.

  • The Principal Professional Development Plan allows each principal to determine areas in which to pursue learning and document growth for the school year.
  • The Building Improvement Plan allows a principal to highlight their individual contributions to develop and meet the goals of the overall building improvement plan.
  • The Building Personnel Development Plan offers a unique way for principals to document their efforts in promoting professional growth among their teachers. The principal identifies one or more teacher and allows the principal to enumerate the supports provided to the teacher(s) in working to meet the improvement goals.
  • NEE also provides a Teacher Survey that can be conducted for any building administrator. The survey asks teachers to rate the principal on questions aligned to the NEE leader indicators.

The principal evaluation results in a summative report that relates the component scores for each leader indicator. Principals use the summative report to inform their future professional growth efforts.

We encourage you to read the full practice brief from APA Division 15: Addressing Teacher Evaluation Appropriately

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.