Monday, July 29, 2013

Quick Update on Teacher Evaluation Question

Just because, here's a funny joke by my favorite TV character about my favorite artist.
Thanks to those of you who responded to my question earlier this summer regarding what you think is important in a teacher evaluation. We covered a lot of ground at our 3-day Teacher Leadership Forum, which included a teacher representative from every school in Fulton County GA - our goal was to discuss our first year of TKES evaluation system. There was an effort made to have a diverse group of veterans and new teachers from all levels and subject areas. Our county is also huge, with vast socio-economic differences from the very low to the very high. Interestingly, the questions and concerns were very similar from all teachers across the board.
Our evaluation addresses five areas - Planning, Instructional Delivery, Assessment, Learning Environment, and Professionalism/Communication - with two subcategories each. The rubric for these categories was four-part - Exemplary, Proficient, Needs Improvement, and Ineffective. Most of the teacher concerns were regarding the differences between Exemplary and Proficient, because the rubric wasn't extremely clear about that, and also a difference of interpretation of the rubric between administration and teachers. After spending the majority of our time together translating the rubric into "teacher talk," our interpretations and concerns were shared with our superintendents and will be passed on to our administrators, and hopefully the lines of communication will be improved this year.

The biggest points I took from this experience can be important for any teacher anywhere - with the most important being... ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF! Don't be afraid to toot your own horn. Keep a record of all the things you do that you feel are "above and beyond," or a list of new things you are trying out and challenging yourself with, and present it to your administrator well before the process ends for the year. Another point is to SHARE YOUR STRENGTHS with other professionals. The easiest way to jump from Proficient to Exemplary is to lead others on a regular basis, and it doesn't have to be a scary, whole-school presentation. Offer a workshop to your team members on a skill you've mastered, or just lead a group while you tackle a challenge together. Don't forget to share these leadership efforts and your results with your administrator! I must add that hearing so many stories of teachers who felt they couldn't share with their admin made me really grateful for the open-door policy at my school and the way my principal encouraged me to share my accomplishments with her throughout the year.

Specifically for special area teachers, we had a concern about being evaluated the same way classroom teachers were, when there are so many differences in what we do every day - at my school, we felt that our evaluation should be differentiated in order to really show off the things we do that are, you know, "special." We differentiate for hundreds and hundreds of students, and we too want our uniqueness to be showcased. Although we didn't discuss this idea in depth, it was a topic that was brought up and again, it is important for us to showcase ourselves to our evaluators.

There will be more discussion in the fall regarding the future of teacher compensation, with an emphasis on creating more leadership opportunities (with pay increase) for teachers who don't want to leave the classroom (like me!) - I will be very interested to hear what opportunities may be in our future. Thanks for reading and here's to a wonderful new year for all of us.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Art Teachers: 2 Questions for You...

1. What is important to you, as a special area teacher, in a teacher evaluation system?
2. What should be included in an "Art Pen Pal" exchange, as a more in-depth version of Artist Trading Cards?

I could really use some ideas and input, for those of you checking your teaching blog-roll during summer vacation! Here's the lowdown:
1. I am attending a teacher leadership forum next week and the topic is our new evaluation system and how it may be used to affect compensation in the future. I have never been very politically active as an educator - I kind of stay in my own neck of the woods in my art room - but after over 20 years teaching and having 2 children of my own passing through my elementary school, I feel like I may have some important views to finally share.
We have a new 10 part evaluation system which is very thorough and was quite a challenge implementing for the first time last year. I feel pretty good about it overall, but there are a few key things that I think should be considered - one being the fact that we are asked to modify and differentiate constantly for our kids, but special area teachers are being evaluated using a system that is clearly created for a classroom setting instead of one that has been modified for us. Some differences for us are the number of students we teach, plan for, and assess each week (hundreds) and how we create products and learning experiences that are beyond the rubric. Yes, I can make rubrics and checklists and all that, and I was pretty happy with my final eval score, but the most important part of what we specialists do every day just isn't showing up on this evaluation, and that is bothering me. I'm not sure how to put it into words and that's why I need your help. What categories do you really want to see on a teacher evaluation? What is great about the one from your district, or what would you like to see changed?
I am no expert on how "pay for performance" works or other methods like this, but I have heard of special area teachers "linking up" with a grade level for data results, and this is just not authentic proof of what we truly do, because we expand knowledge and problem solving for all students at all grade levels. What we teach isn't tested, but it is critical for the development of the whole child, and a well-rounded education will raise test scores. I do know that Student Learning Objectives are in the works for us and hopefully this will be beneficial in this context.

2. I have participated in an ATC trade with a number of schools over the last 2 school years and the kids and I have really enjoyed it. I just keep feeling the need for some "back and forth" - I know we would all like an opportunity to respond to these shared works. What I am picturing is more like a pen pal setup, where my class partners with a class somewhere else, and we have a regular art exchange a few times during the year, where pairs of students continue to write to each other and develop a friendship. I am not sure exactly how the logistics of this will work, but if you have had similar thoughts, or this idea strikes your fancy, let me know your thoughts!

Sorry for the wordy post with no pics. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer so far - we have had rain basically every day and I am loving it, nice cool temps for summer. Thanks for any and all input you'd like to share.