5 Steps to Great Evaluation: A System to Guide Development, Careers

by | August 27, 2015

Opportunity Culture models, which extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for higher pay within budget, change both the content and process of teacher evaluation—for the better. Public Impact’s newest, free, five-step toolkit, Evaluation, Accountability, and Professional Development in an Opportunity Culture: A Practical Guide, gives schools, districts, and states what they need to create an evaluation system that primarily guides teachers’ development and career opportunities.

An accompanying State Policy Brief speaks to anyone who wants laws and other policies to support the Opportunity Culture-style school culture focused on collaboration and excellence.

Why do districts need this? Because today’s systems don’t do what great evaluation should do:

  • support on-the-job and long-term development for great teaching
  • help identify teachers for advanced roles in which they are likely to succeed
  • prepare teachers for advanced roles that help their peers and more students succeed; and
  • match teachers to long-term paths in which they can best succeed.

In the still-prevalent one-teacher-one-classroom model, few districts have provided a robust, sustainably funded way to connect teacher evaluation with career opportunities, and they continue to bump up against questions of fairness in evaluation. How can teachers trust evaluators who rarely see them?

But in an Opportunity Culture, few teachers work alone most of the time. Most work in teams on which each person does what he or she does best, and a team of leaders supports the principal. That team collaboration lets them observe one another’s thinking and actions up close as they work together to plan and deliver instruction, often with the ongoing support, coaching, and co-teaching of a great teacher-leader. That means giving and getting valuable and accurate feedback to support their improvement throughout the year, which supports career advancement, which means helping more students succeed.

But districts and states must deliberately change evaluation to match the team, team leader, and extended-reach roles that are common in schools using Opportunity Culture models. These roles have wider spans of students, sometimes with narrower ranges of teaching content. They require enhanced soft skills—such as teamwork, team leadership, and flexibility—and hard skills, such as managing meetings and analyzing larger sets of student growth data during the year. Not changing evaluation systems appropriately can lead to mismatched students and teachers in formal accountability systems, lack of on-point, frequent feedback for teachers in new roles, missed opportunities for teachers to improve faster, and reduction of further career opportunities—harming teachers and students.

Our new guide helps education leaders align evaluation and its uses with an Opportunity Culture and similar school models and career paths—successfully and at a low cost. It reflects lessons drawn from one-teacher-one-classroom style evaluation as well as early experiences of Opportunity Culture teachers and principals—to guide states, districts, and schools toward ensuring that evaluation supports everyone’s success.

The guide and its tools are organized into sections covering evaluation redesign, evaluation content, evaluation process, and critical uses of evaluation. Each section includes a set of action steps, considerations and guidance, tools, and links to other relevant resources.

Although some changes in evaluation and accountability can be made at the school and district levels, our accompanying brief looks at those that require a policy fix at the state level.

This guide and brief join the many free Opportunity Culture materials for schools, districts, and human resources personnel to use in creating an Opportunity Culture, recruiting, selecting, and evaluating and developing teachers and teacher-leaders in these new roles.

In 2014–15, the second implementation year, the Opportunity Culture initiative included more than 30 schools, 450 teachers, and 16,000 students, and will include more than 60 schools in 2015–16, in Texas, Indiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, and New York.

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