A Chicken/Egg Dilemma
In a blog post from October, Learning Forward Executive Director Stephanie Hirsh shared details of our recent partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation known as the Knowledge Development Initiative (KDI). The KDI engages a network of 12 districts that are on the cutting edge of developing educator effectiveness systems. Over the past several years, these sites worked hard to develop well-defined teaching and learning frameworks, fair educator evaluation systems, and started the work of creating a system of supports for educators.
As part of the KDI network, these sites pledged to share their hard-earned lessons, educator effectiveness tools, and reveal persistent challenges they face in driving the best teaching in their school districts. The goal is to transfer their knowledge amongst the group, disseminate the lessons learned to the broader education community, and collaboratively develop solutions to common problems of practice.
The early work of this network revealed that developing strong educator evaluation systems is a Herculean effort, but that as much attention, or more, is needed to support educators at all performance levels to continuously improve their practice. Some leaders in the network lament the fact that they missed an opportunity to align their professional learning systems to create comprehensive professional learning systems before, or at least in tandem with, the development of their evaluation systems.
No one can fault these cutting-edge school systems for their oversight, but we can and should hold the next wave of school systems accountable for failing to heed the lessons learned from these early implementers. To achieve the goal of ensuring that all students are taught by effective teachers, systems must support teachers with a comprehensive system of professional learning. One area the KDI sites identified as a common area of need is providing effective feedback and coaching for improvement. Two sites: Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC) and Denver Public Schools offer the network and school systems across the county their feedback and coaching tools for peer and administrator observers.
PUC offers the field their Growth Guides that provide "common language, more descriptive language, and examples for discrete indicators on [PUC's] College-Ready Teaching Framework." The Growth Guides help coaches guide teachers in changing their practice and serve as guides to the system in developing relevant professional learning experiences. They can also support and empower teachers to develop their own skills and practice. The Denver Public Schools offers guidance on the Role of a Peer Observer. This tool is important to ensure that feedback is specific, measurable, and leads to improvement.
I invite you to view the tools offered by PUC and Denver. Consider ways that the tools might be helpful to your system's efforts to support and empower educators to continuously improve their practice and suggest ways that these tools may be improved to meet the needs of your educator effectiveness efforts.
M. Rene Islas
Director, Learning Forward Center for Results