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Top Teachers

The 2010-2011 school year is upon us, and with it comes many new teachers who are excited to enlighten the minds of students who will sit before them for the next 10 months.

This is also a time where administrators may wonder how successful the teachers will be and if they are going to meet the challenges of becoming an effective expert teacher. Regardless of the time spent interviewing them on several levels, evaluating their demo lessons, and talking to their former colleagues, the question remains: Who are the teachers that are really going to shine?

Potter Stewart, a U.S. Supreme Court justice, is famous for saying when defining pornography, “I know it, when I see it." The same can be applied to great teaching. Some may say that it has to with caring for your students and your craft. Some may say that it is being passionate about teaching. None of that really captures that top 1% of teachers.

“In most schools, teacher evaluation is a joke,” according to Marshall in her book Is Supervising the Heck out of Teachers the Answer?

This thinking has begun to change in our district, since the introduction of Danielson's Framework. Administrators use Danielson's Framework for Teaching to provide a foundation for what is expected from our teachers. New teachers are provided with professional development on the Framework so that they are aware of the expectations of the district in regard to teaching and learning. Prior to a classroom observation, the teacher is involved in a conference with their administrator where they discuss the four domains of teaching, including: planning and preparation (Domain 1), classroom environment (Domain 2), instruction (Domain 3), and professional responsibilities (Domain 4). The administrator shares the Framework rubric and provides an opportunity for the teacher to explain how he or she will show evidence of the chosen components within the framework. After the classroom observation, there is another conference with the teacher and administrator where the teacher plays a significant role in evaluating his or her lesson. The rubric is used to help guide this discussion and create suggestions for improvement.

This is an effective framework; however, there is one fatal flaw whenever you put anything on paper and try to evaluate someone within a framework or rubric. It is difficult to capture that top tier of whatever you are evaluating. The use of Danielson's Framework has reduced this thinking; however, there is always room for improvement.

Marzano says, "Beyond a few basics, there isn't one right way to teach. Rather than prowling through classrooms with checklists of “correct” practices, administrators should be looking at interim results with their teachers, identifying the most effective practices, and improving what's not working."

This is one reason why it is imperative that administrators make themselves present in classrooms as frequently as possible. What other ways exist to evaluate "that" top tier of teachers?

Tell us, how do you plan on tackling this issue?

Teresa Ivey and James Yap

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