Conversations Set Expectations for a Growth-Oriented School Year
As educators head back to school this month, early conversations between school leaders and teachers set the stage for a growth-oriented year.
One conversation administrators should not skip is around communicating your NEE goals and expectations for the school year. These are expectations you have set for yourself as well as for faculty and staff.
Let’s start first with communicating your own expectations.
- Start with The Why. One of the strongest ways to build faculty understanding of the evaluative process is by explaining the why of the process at the outset. Discuss the purpose and intent behind evaluating teaching effectiveness in your community. This is a great way to instill growth-oriented mindsets in your faculty and staff. Talk to them about the purpose of NEE (growth), the purpose of evaluation (to drive professional improvement), and the importance of each person having a growth mindset as a professional and for the school culture and community.
- Share your expectation for how often you will be in classrooms for observation and evaluation purposes. This is an important expectation to communicate. It allows teachers to have a consistent guide for how often they should expect you to be in the classroom conducting an observation and how often they will receive feedback. NEE’s recommendation is that each teacher is observed 6 to 10 times per year. (If your school will continue to offer a remote or hybrid option, review our recommendations for evaluating remote teaching.)
- Share the NEE indicators you will collect evidence on during observations. As with any assessment or evaluation, it is important to communicate the evidence that will be used. In this case, you should communicate which indicators your faculty will be observed on. Share the indicator scoring rubrics and clarify how those scoring rubrics will be utilized in the classroom. We recommend discussing the concrete descriptors, how they define what is happening during the observation, how you have been trained to begin every observation at a score of 3, and how you move up or down the rubric based on the evidence collected during the observation.
- Share any additional evaluative measures that will be used in your school. At the beginning of the year, review any additional evaluative measures beyond classroom observations and the intent of those measures (e.g., student surveys, professional development plans, units of instruction, and specialist evaluations). Also include professional development activities on any evaluative measures that will be newly deployed for 2021-2022. Then, at different key points in the year (before a part of that evaluative process takes place in your school), remind faculty of the function and use of the measure. You might also wish to share how you are evaluated as an administrator and how that benefits the school as well. To assist with that, most of the NEE evaluative measures have corresponding training walkthroughs available in EdHub under the NEE Training Materials topic.
- Discuss the way you will provide feedback. Be upfront about how you plan to provide feedback to your faculty and staff members throughout the year. Hopefully you have a goal in place based on NEE’s recommendation of providing face-to-face feedback within 24 hours every time data is entered for a teacher into the NEE Data Tool. Share that goal with faculty. Also share with faculty how you want those feedback conversations to go, your goal in having those conversations, and what you want to happen after each of those conversations.
- Discuss how you will operate from a coaching mindset. This point is important enough to say twice. As part of your discussion of The Why (Point #1), you will have mentioned that the purpose of evaluation is to encourage growth for individuals as well as for the whole school community. It is important to mention this again at the end of your discussions. Communicate that evaluation processes are formative in nature and are meant to build conversations.Those feedback conversations should direct growth in small, incremental ways that have positive and lasting effects in the classroom environment.
Once you have shared your visions and expectations for yourself as the instructional leader, you should communicate your expectations for how faculty and staff approach the evaluation process.
- Expectations of effective teaching practices. While it is important to talk through the NEE indicators you will be collecting evidence on through classroom observations, it is also important to communicate that these expectations go beyond your observations. The indicators you observe 6 to 10 times per year should be the effective teaching practices incorporated into every minute of every hour of every day that the teacher is with students. Those 3 to 5 indicators should be the main cogs of the teaching process and the delivery of instruction to all students. Communicate the importance of your selected indicators in terms of instruction and how they impact student performance, the classroom community, and the culture of the school.
- Understanding the scores of the rubric. Work with your faculty and staff to get them familiar with the language of the rubric and the look-fors. This activity might include practice with scoring classroom observation videos that are available through EdHub (under the Indicator Scoring Practice Videos topic). You might also have them come up with scenarios for what specific teaching practices might look like at varying levels of the scoring rubric. There are plenty of ways to familiarize faculty and staff with the criterion of the scoring rubric and how each rubric is based on percentage of time and/or percentage of students involved during the observation. Take the opportunity to heighten their understanding and comprehension of the rubrics.
- Work to get their commitment to operating in a growth mindset. Another way to gain commitment to the process is through providing your faculty and staff opportunities to build and communicate their own growth mindset. A lot of this work should be built around the efficacy they have in their own abilities, reflection on what their strengths and abilities are, and ways they can commit to risk-taking at individual, small-group, and whole-faculty levels. Leading faculty and staff in this effort in the beginning of the year can provide some guideposts and talking points to consistently center feedback discussions throughout the year. Self-commitments as well as group commitments are great incentives to build collective efficacy and effort.
It is important to set expectations for how the year is going to go from the beginning. Some of those expectations are built in communicating your own goals and the expectations you have for yourself as the instructional leader. These expectations should be communicated as part of an effort to build capacity of each individual educator as well as of the whole school. Set the expectations at the start, come back to them frequently, and check in on them through your evaluative procedures and processes. Those pieces work together to build a growth mindset for each member of the school community throughout the year.
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.