ClassBright: Simple and Effective Teacher Evaluation

Stories from an Alaska Superintendent - PART II

By Scott MacManus, Superintendent of Alaska Gateway School District


In 2013, the State of Alaska mandated that all school districts revamp their teacher evaluation systems to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Like many other - particularly rural - school districts, AGSD initially struggled with the requirements and the limited options available.  

We considered simply adopting one of the national models that the State had pre-approved. But after reviewing several options, we knew none were realistic for us.They were large systems that required a great deal of training and support, as well as a considerable software investment. And our most important teaching practice goals were not necessarily addressed.

So we considered building our own “hybrid” model; another option offered by the State. Even though we were initially daunted by the time, cost, and horsepower needed to devote to such a project, we ultimately concluded that it was in our best interest to develop our own model.  

Brightways Learning immediately came to mind as a good partner in this venture. From previous and ongoing experience with them for our curriculum management needs, we knew they would provide the innovative programming we needed for such a system.  

The goal was to develop an easy-to-use, online evaluation instrument that complied with the new laws, and would fairly and objectively evaluate teachers in a way that supported improvement and excellence in teaching and learning. It needed to share expectations and observations immediately and transparently, while facilitating collaboration and meaningful discussions.

The Brightways team latched on to our idea immediately, listened carefully to our needs, and delivered an exceptional online product called ClassBright Evaluation. This flexible system not only meets our district's specifications, but can easily be adapted to any other school district’s needs.

ClassBright Evaluation makes the process of performance evaluations much more collaborative and provides real, clear transparency to the teachers. There are no secrets. It's very data-driven, so it helps administrators make data-based performance decisions.

But most importantly, the ClassBright Evaluation system is creating a valuable dialogue between the evaluators and the teachers that is more productive and conducive to long-term teacher support. Ultimately, this will help our teachers become better educators to our students.

Now in the middle of our first year in full implementation of ClassBright Evaluation, we are actively meeting our evaluation goals: 

  • to improve professional communication and growth between teachers and principals; 
  • to build and support best practices in teaching and learning; 
  • to receive information we can use to support our teachers; and
  • to be manageable and efficient for our busy administrators.

In fact, we are so confident in ClassBright Evaluation, we plan next year to expand our use beyond the primary teaching staff to include all our supporting, certified, and classified staff within this single, easy-to-manage system.