By Lisa “Kersch” Kerscher, Brightway Learning's Education Director
What is the purpose of evaluating teachers? Most would agree that at its base level, it’s about making sure teachers are performing their minimum job requirements. But at the highest level, it’s about helping teachers self-reflect on their practices and supporting them to grow their best professional selves.
In many cases, reaching the high ground has obstacles due to the nature of how evaluations are done: top-down, with little or late input from the teachers themselves. At statewide teacher conferences, I’ve heard teachers recount how they only see their evaluator once a year for a one-hour formal observation session. “And that’s what I get judged on,” one teacher lamented. “I have to be perfect in that one random hour out of the whole school year! How can I show all the great stuff I do during the rest of the year?”
So, it always gives me a boost to hear and see how this “old mindset” is shifting to truly polish best practices in our schools. It’s especially rewarding for me that our own software system - ClassBright Collaborate (formerly ClassBright Evaluation) - is helping to lead the way.
Recently during fall in-services, I was training school staff on ClassBright Collaborate. A couple of veteran teachers - new to this district - were clearly apprehensive about the evaluation process. It was refreshing to me - and comforting to them - to hear others share their experiences from last school year.
“I found that [the evaluation process with ClassBright] actually validated my practice,” one teacher said, while her colleague nodded next to her in agreement. From there, a great and open discussion unfolded among the teachers and administrators. Veterans in the district talked about how ClassBright Collaborate allows them to give input in a variety of ways throughout the school year:
Adding evidence and examples of their practices to their own portfolios, shared with their evaluator; this is especially important for categories in the rubric where classroom observations aren’t applicable
Immediate transparency of observations made by their evaluator, often triggering in-time discussions together
Active reflection on and interacting with the evaluation rubric, sometimes leading to deeper discussions about best practices
“I feel like the evaluation process is something we do together,” another teacher noted, “rather than having something done to me. It actually helps me think more about what I’m doing.”
Every true professional, regardless of their career field, desires and needs the time and commitment in order to get better at what they do. In the education world, why not optimize the evaluation requirement to grow great teachers together? I’m proud to be part of the movement to help educational professionals do just that!