Leadership development

The children in our classrooms deserve no less than our best effort to provide them with the highest quality of instruction every single day. Our best effort requires educators to routinely sharpen their skills, and that’s why it’s important that teachers and administrators alike participate regularly in professional development and leadership development training and activities.

We spend a lot of time talking about (and requiring) professional development for educators. We all know the reason: Teachers have the biggest impact on improving student achievement. Therefore, administrators must ensure effective teaching practices are taking place in every classroom. This level of responsibility requires school leaders to accurately evaluate performance, to provide objective feedback to teachers, to establish a coaching relationship, and to provide resources and support for professional development.

For that reason, school leadership development is a key building block of the Network for Educator Effectiveness. It’s our goal to ensure that school leaders are equipped with the tools and skills to effectively evaluate educators and to provide meaningful feedback leading to more effective instruction in the classroom.

Training administrators to become more effective instructional leaders

Every summer, NEE trains more than 2,000 administrators to conduct reliable, accurate, consistent observations of teachers in the classroom. NEE trainers conduct specially designed training sessions meant to improve administrators in their quest to properly monitor and impact instruction in their school building. NEE’s model not only creates more accurate observers but goes the extra step to help building leaders use their observation skills to engage in conversations with teachers to make a positive impact on classrooms.

Since NEE’s launch in 2011, our mission to systematically cause improvement in the core of school administrators has been evident in the effective school leadership practices used in 280 school districts across Missouri. These research-based school leadership practices are routinely reinforced in our annual training sessions.

The effort is not easy. It takes a fair amount of resources starting nine months in advance to prepare materials for the coming summer’s training season. Our regional NEE field support staff members schedule trainings in locations across our service area to provide every school administrator with a nearby training location so geography isn’t a barrier to participation.  It should be recognized that this annual training requirement is a burden on each participating district as well. The time to attend and the cost of mileage is an investment by the district in their administrative team. NEE takes this investment seriously by providing engaging development activities each summer.

Is the investment paying off? If the quality of inter-rater reliability is a good indicator, then we have made significant progress. Every summer, all 2,000 NEE administrators are tested using a series of classroom videos to check their scoring reliability, and the results indicate NEE administrators have better developed skills in proper evaluation protocols.

NEE is the only large-scale evaluation system in the country with the longitudinal reliability data on a large block of school administrators. Each fall, NEE systematically reviews the previous summer’s scoring data to find opportunities for improvement. The data-review findings are used to adjust the upcoming summer training to continually improve the training process and the subsequent scoring data results. This cycle of review, adjust, and test again over a seven-year period has created a training system that is solid and delivers competent and capable evaluators.

Providing school leadership development at scale

At the time NEE launched in 2011, a number of other states using federal Race-to-the-Top (RttT) funds began statewide efforts to run large-scale teacher evaluation systems. In reviewing all of these now-defunct systems, a key difference between those models and NEE is the amount and frequency of school leadership development training.

Most RttT models used a “once and done” training approach that involved a non-engaging set of slides and a brief demo of their online data-gathering tool. In some of these states, participants were tested to check for reliability, but the test results were less than glowing because they lacked the investment in long-term training and development of school-level leaders. In some cases, the participants felt they were not adequately trained or prepared to be given a high-stakes test. In other states, only a select few principals were chosen to be trained while many other evaluators were simply left to “do it the best you can.”

From the beginning, NEE chose to require every principal to attend training annually. Most have welcomed this level of effort. While certainly not an easy path for anyone involved, NEE and our network of districts have joined in a philosophical understanding that all evaluators will be properly trained upfront and will continue to actively participate in annual follow-up trainings.

Another aspect of scaling NEE across an entire state is the professional staff involved in the project. The NEE training field support staff and help-desk staff are an exceptionally skilled team. All of these team members have been with NEE for several years and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. The level of understanding is quite high among the entire group, and the consistency of training across the state is critical to ensure reliability at scale. NEE also has a great team of instructional consultants and materials development staff that create engaging materials for both summer training and our online educator training resource library, EdHub.

All of these scaling efforts are unique but have produced a large body of school administrators that are skilled observers of effective instruction. From that perspective, NEE and our network of districts stand on high ground with few peers. This effort is a shared responsibility that should never be taken lightly. NEE and our network of districts know our role in that effort is squarely centered on school leadership development that helps create safe, nurturing, engaging learning environments for every student.

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.