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Transforming the Teaching Profession

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The following post is from Jana Bryant, a 2014-2015 Hope Street Group Kentucky State Teacher Fellow and the Math Staff Developer for Daviess County Public Schools in Owensboro, KY.

Trust is key as we begin to transform our teacher evaluation systems. Focusing the conversation on high quality instruction and fostering a spirit of collaboration and improvement is critical in supporting the challenge of transforming the current system that has too often failed to enhance student growth and learning or to improve teacher practice.

Many states are realizing that one achievement score does not accurately reflect the value of a teacher or the quality of a student's learning experiences. For this reason, states have made changes to their teacher evaluation systems to include multiple measures such as: student growth, student voice surveys, classroom observations, peer observations, and teacher self-reflection.

These new effectiveness systems will require a shift in our thinking about our growth as teachers. In its Widget Effect study, The New Teacher Project found that for years we, as teachers, rarely received meaningful feedback about improving aspects of our instructional performance through the formal evaluation system. This lack of honest, constructive assessment of one's teaching methods has created "a culture in which teachers are strongly resistant to receiving an evaluation rating that suggests their practice needs improvement."

In preparation to be receptive to suggestions of growth and refinement of our practice, we must consider the multiple measures not as evaluations, but as data points to utilize in creating an effective self-reflection.

Some opportunities that promote self-reflection might include:

· Invite a peer observer to your classroom trained in the new evaluation system. Have them scribe all teacher and student conversations. Conduct a post conference to analyze the evidence

· Film your classroom instruction. Review the footage independently and/or with a colleague. Analyze student engagement, document the questions (student and teacher generated), and assess opportunities for peer collaboration and self-reflection

· Invite an administrator to your classroom for an informal observation. Conduct a post conference to analyze the evidence

· Join a professional learning community (PLC). (school/district/state/national)

· Participate in shared scoring of student work with a PLC, curriculum committee or grade level team.

We, as educators, need to be lifelong learners -- just as we ask our students to be -- which includes careful reflection of our instruction and accepting honest, meaningful feedback. Sarah Brown Wessling, former National Teacher of the Year, states, "We cannot improve and grow in our practice in isolation; in order to continuously evolve, we must open our classroom doors and accept constructive feedback from coaches and peers."

As teachers, we must seek to create a trusting environment among us which will engender a spirit of collaboration and acceptance of changes in teacher practice that will promote student growth.

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