Executive Summary

Dan Challener

I was a member of the First to the Top writing team and am currently president of the Public Education Foundation in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I also oversee the Foundation’s efforts to strengthen student achievement in Hamilton County’s public schools. Before moving to Chattanooga in 1999, I served for seven years as CEO of the Providence Blueprint for Education, a community based advocacy and research project that involved communities in the improvement of public schools in Providence, Rhode Island.  I hold a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a master’s and PhD in English from Brown.

Could you tell us some effective communication strategies that you have seen during the reform efforts?

There are at least two effective strategies that I have seen. First, you can never underestimate the power of word of mouth. We had teachers, principals, and central office staff working on evaluation for months.  A lot of people began to see a process that was thoughtful, fair, and carefully done.  Word spread about the evaluation system.

Another strategy is to use a working group. We have a working group that meets every other week and will do so for 18 months. The working group allows teachers and principals to voice concerns and to work with their peers in improving the process.

What key nuggets would you would like to convey to your counterparts in other states?

One, don’t lose focus that the end game is to develop a system that improves instruction.  There is no doubt that you also want to remove low performing teachers while recognizing high-performing teachers, but the key is to develop a system that improves instruction.  Two, avoid the things that did not work in the past, like evaluation observations that rely on checklists.

 

The Federal Government and Teacher Evaluation

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