Guidance and Advice for Building Evaluation Programs
As an organization we believe that the best road forward will be for policymakers and educators to problem solve and work together on the development, execution, and refinement of new evaluation systems and policies that will lead to greater impact in the classroom. Reforming or creating new educator evaluation programs is a difficult process. Even after the new program is launched, it could take several years to address issues and problems to build an effective evaluation system.
It will also require financial resources to hire staff to handle communications, planning and oversight, technical assistance, and more. State and school district leaders should view new evaluation programs as a long-term investment that will ultimately result in a more engaged teaching force and better student growth. This should be conveyed in the communication strategy to prepare stakeholders for a tough transition to the new system during the first few years after launch.
Evaluation reform is important work. The road to completion will look different in every state, but the process and end result should have some key similarities. Among them:
- Engage educators and seek ongoing input from teachers, beginning at the start of the planning process.
- Work to build trust between educators and state policymakers.
- As the central goal of the new evaluation system, provide teachers with the tools, supports, information, and individualized feedback necessary to improve classroom instruction.
- Commend teachers for excellence or for areas of strong improvement.
- Develop a comprehensive and strategic communications plan to clearly communicate the details of the evaluation program and the planning process to educators, parents, and other stakeholders to ensure there is broad understanding of the system’s goals and purpose.
- Commit to continuous improvement that includes teacher voice.
- Keep it simple, when possible, so goals and details can be easily explained.
- Focus early in the process on designing fair and comparable assessments across all grade levels and subjects (NTGS).
- Provide annual reviews for all teachers whenever possible.
- Incorporate multiple measures of evaluation with a significant part on student academic growth under individual teachers.
- Provide comprehensive training for evaluators, including how to objectively observe teachers, how to engage and communicate with teachers, and how to individualize professional development plans.
- Create a comprehensive budget to anticipate the costs of planning and launching the new evaluation system with the goal of using resources as wisely and effectively as possible.
Build Teacher Feedback Loops Early
Another important aspect of building an evaluation program is remembering to focus on the big picture. Specifically, policymakers might be tempted to work through every last detail of what the new system will look like and how it will function early in planning. It might be better to instead build strong feedback loops with teachers upfront, develop and test the evaluation system, and demonstrate that it’s a continuous improvement process by ongoing feedback from individual teachers. This may take more time in the beginning than a top-down model, but will be more effective and sustainable in the long run. This approach also allows teachers to contribute to the design and the launch from the very beginning -- creating trust and goodwill.
Make Budgeting a Priority
Another difficult aspect of planning and launching new evaluation systems involves knowing how best to use limited financial resources. Planners should think about what portions of the effort will come with the most cost and budget accordingly. Policymakers reported that they underestimated how much it would cost to create assessments in the non-tested grades and subjects (NTGS), for example. Paying teachers for work on weekends or during the summer to design NTGS assessments is one potential cost associated with building new evaluations.
The price of communicating the goals and details of the new program to educators and the public is another cost to anticipate. This could involve hiring additional communication staff, buying advertising space and other marketing efforts, or travel costs to visit teachers and schools around the state.
Establish Timelines and Deadlines
Timing will also be important, and those who have been there urge states to take their time. Dana Siegel, a teacher in Tennessee involved in the development of the evaluation for educators who teach in NTSG areas, said she felt that their timeline was too short, leaving too little time to work through the big issues in person. In the end, she said, a few people were left to do the bulk of the work. Teachers interviewed by Hope Street Group urged states to build flexibility into their deadlines and benchmarks to deal with unanticipated issues and problems.