"You cannot improve education by alienating the profession that carries it out." —Sir Ken Robinson
Promoting educator effectiveness is a hot topic across the United States and rightly so. Our children have one chance at each grade level. We have to get it right.
As our country struggles with entrenched systems and a wide spectrum of deeply held beliefs, public schools can no longer continue to operate along the status quo. In order to ensure quality education for our children, teacher evaluations have become the catalyst for defining effective practice.
Individual states are working to craft a vision of effective practice and simultaneously develop a system that evaluates the educators who directly affect students. The appearance of these evaluation systems at the local level is deeply affected by state mandates, budget considerations, and various stages of readiness.
In the development of new evaluation systems, many educators have struggled to find their voices. In Jefferson County, Colorado, however, educators are working side-by-side with administration at state and local levels. Together, these individuals are creating a cohesive and rewarding process that allows teachers to grow their own practice. The framework of the evaluation process in Jefferson County is enabling schools and teachers to put systems in place that facilitate and encourage change from within.
Jefferson County, affectionately called JeffCo, uses peer evaluators who work side-by-side with administrators to observe teachers and provide feedback. Teachers are receptive to the idea of peer evaluators, because these professionals have recently walked in teachers’ shoes and have direct experience with current requirements and effective practice. Teachers in Jefferson County say that the peer evaluators provide feedback that is relevant and actionable. The administrator/evaluator duo spends many an hour in every teacher’s classroom. The peer evaluator and administrator collaborate to give every teacher feedback on the lesson. The feedback is timely, detailed, and uses the teacher evaluation rubric that defines quality teaching.
As they say in JeffCo, feedback, though, is just feedback. That’s where master teachers enter the picture. These teacher leaders are effective educators in their own right and have chosen this work in order to play an integral role in the development of teacher practice. Working alongside administrators and peer evaluators, these individuals work in a specific school to analyze needs as indicated by the rubric. Perhaps most importantly, the master teacher collaborates with every teacher to create an individual professional growth plan. These plans are essentially practice in motion and are directly tied to everyday teaching. Based upon feedback that occurs numerous times throughout the year, the educators revise and hone their individual plans in order to improve the teaching that occurs in the classroom on a daily basis.
The collegial conversations that are occurring in JeffCo are inspiring to say the least. By their own admission, some teachers were skeptical at first and at times the process has been bumpy. Ultimately, the teachers are excited about the professionalization of their jobs. The shared leadership that has developed has created ownership of educators’ practice and the desire to grow beyond what they ever believed possible.
Who benefits from and educator evaluation system where teachers are integral members of the process? Everyone. The ultimate winners, however, are the students and isn’t that the point? Sir Ken Robinson would be proud.
Kelly Hicks is a 4th grade teacher at Sage Elementary in Redmond, Oregon. Kelly has been an educator for 21 years and has worked with students in grades 2-8 in both private and public schools. Originally a native of Chagrin Falls, OH, Kelly received a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Notre Dame as well as a Master's Degree from the University of Pennsylvania. A strong advocate for public education and equity of opportunity, Kelly has a passion for both classroom instruction and the continued development of strong professional educators. Kelly lives in Redmond with her husband and two sons.
- Teacher Preparation
- Educator Workforce