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Exploring a New Paradigm for Teacher Evaluation
By Christopher Wooleyhand
Michael Chirichello believes that now is the time for school leaders to focus on the complexity of teacher evaluation reform. The old model of teacher evaluations is out, says this leadership-focused author whose books include Learning to Lead: Ten Stories for Principals.
“If you talk more than the teacher in a post-observation conference, you blew it!” he said in his presentation at the 2013 NAESP Annual Conference.
Chirichello called on attendees to transform the teacher evaluation process to promote self-improvement and professional development. He encouraged principals to rethink teacher evaluation as a process driven by a belief in mutual accountability, responsibility, collaboration, and empowerment.
New Model vs. Old
Examining the old views associated with teacher evaluation, Chirichello noted that teachers have historically worked in isolation, which impedes their growth. In the past, teacher evaluation was viewed as an event rather than an ongoing process. It is often too heavy on principal talk and too light on teacher reflection.
The new paradigm for teacher evaluation, according to Chirichello, is centered in the beliefs associated with collective leadership: risk-taking, diversity, and creativity. Effective teacher evaluation increases teachers’ expertise to improve student learning outcomes, which then leads to effective schools. Effective teacher evaluation also requires collegial relationships between teachers and supervisors. When teachers and principals collaborate in the evaluation process, said Chirichello, the focus is on teacher growth rather than compliance.
Making the Case
Like other conference speakers, Chirichello discussed the success of countries like Finland, Singapore, and Canada. He noted that these countries tend to have highly competitive teacher training programs. In working with such highly trained teachers, principals in these countries can focus on growth opportunities for educators rather than evaluations.
In making the case for rethinking teacher evaluation, Chirichello pointed out that the national mean for years of teaching experience in the U.S. dropped from fifteen years in 1988 to one year in 2008. With so many inexperienced teachers in our nation’s schools, a model that focuses on teacher growth rather than compliance has become necessary.
Designing New Processes
According to Chirichello, the process of rethinking evaluations begins when principals explore ways to have more effective conversations with teachers. Using engaging simulations, Chirichello walked participants through a process that applies differentiated approaches to post-observation conversations. He worked with the group to help them design reflective, evidence-based questions to ask during conferences with teachers.
After attending the session, Jean Consolla, principal at Mount Eagle Elementary in Alexandria, Virginia, noted that, "[j]ust like really good teaching, good supervision is hard work."
Several attendees remarked that the presentation by Chirichello reinforced that the key to teacher evaluation is the relationships principals foster with their teachers. When trust is established, teacher evaluation can truly be a tool for self-improvement and professional development.
Christopher Wooleyhand is principal of Richard Henry Lee Elementary School in Glen Burnie, Maryland.
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