Aurora teaching leaders expand knowledge of educator effectiveness, quality standards

LindaFBAs Linda Barker talks to members in this first statewide year of the Colorado State Model Evaluation System, the director of CEA’s Teaching and Learning Department is careful to define the purpose behind educator effectiveness, and not the purpose of the law that called for the system.

“Senate Bill 191 was just the law, it didn’t have the components in it,” Barker told a group of about 70 Association Representatives in the Aurora Education Association during a training session in late August. “When SB 191 was passed, the headlines were all about getting rid of teachers, it was all negative. But the State Council for Educator Effectiveness, as they built the system, turned that around. They recognized this system has to be about a focus on continually improving practice for both teachers and principals, and for improving student learning.”

Barker explained the State Council has laid out an evaluation system for teachers and principals with three purposes:

  • Develop a multiple, fair, transparent, timely, rigorous and valid evaluation system,
  • Build a system of supports so all receive feedback to improve practice with associated professional development, and
  • Encourage the sharing of effective practices.

“This evaluation is a process, not a checklist,” Barker said. “If you have a building principal, coach or peer evaluator going into classrooms – check, check, check, check, check – that is not a priority in this system. It is the conversations between teachers and principals around practice that will provide an atmosphere of continuous improvement and learning.

“How many of you have had a walk-through where they went through your classroom and you had no idea what they were looking for?” Barker asked, with many members nodding in agreement. “That was the old system. Now when they come in your room to observe, you know exactly what they’re looking for – the Quality Standards.”

The Colorado Department of Education released a reference guide for the Colorado Teacher Quality Standards (on the CEA website) that “provide a common vision of great teaching and school leadership, and serve as the basis of educator evaluations as well as a tool for self-reflection, goal setting and ongoing professional growth.”

Teachers adhering to the Quality Standards:

  • Demonstrate mastery of and pedagogical expertise in the content they teach,
  • Establish a safe, inclusive and respectful learning environment for a diverse population of students,
  • Plan and deliver effective instruction and create an environment that facilitates learning for their students,
  • Reflect on their practice,
  • Demonstrate leadership, and
  • Take responsibility for student academic growth.LindaPW

Barker encouraged the group to involve their colleagues in developing a clear understanding of the elements, and to identify which standards or elements the whole school could work on together for professional growth.

One area that participants needed clarification around was if self-assessments had to be shared with their principal or evaluator. Some Aurora members said they were required to upload their self-assessments into an electronic data system.

“Self-assessments are a critical part of the evaluation system and should be completed by the end of the first month, but sharing with anyone else is an option that each individual has complete control over,” Linda explained. “The intent of the self-assessment is to provide a framework for reflection on past performance, both strengths and challenges, and set performance goals based on that reflection.”

Barker also challenged each AR to become the expert in their school on evaluations, first by understanding the key priorities of educator effectiveness set forth by the State Council:

  • A system where data informs decisions, but human judgment is still critical in a human profession,
  • A system about continuous improvement,
  • A system with meaningful and credible feedback,
  • A system that involves all stakeholders, and
  • A system that is aligned and supportive for educators.

“Is that how it feels right now?” Barker asked the Aurora group about being supported in this system. “Not yet, but our hope is in this hold-harmless evaluation year, you’ll start to see this system of support that is focused on your practice, student results, and a culture in every building of continuous improvement around teaching and learning.”

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