In an effort to improve teacher and principal effectiveness, the state of Kentucky recently adopted a new teacher evaluation system based heavily on the Framework for Teaching developed by Charlotte Danielson. Ahead of the official roll out, the Newport Independent School District decided to take steps to make sure its faculty and administrators had a solid understanding of the new system and expectations so it purchased Teachscape Focus Calibration, an observation and evaluation management tool.
Although the new evaluation system was not to be fully adopted statewide until the 2014-2015 school year, Newport decided to go ahead with implementation last year and developed a plan that included the use of multiple Teachscape products to train staff on how to conduct fair and consistent evaluations including peer observations.
“The purpose was to help grow everyone’s toolbox in regards to the framework. Because it’s so new to the teachers, they needed to have a good understanding of the framework before they were giving feedback to other teachers on how to get better,” says Amy Gilkison, chief academic officer for Newport Independent School District.
Teachscape allows educators to be trained in the Framework for Teaching and to look in-depth at its components. School staff who conduct formal evaluations can be certified to do so through the Teachscape platform. Using a tool known as Calibration, districts can check the accuracy of evaluations conducted by certified observers to make sure the way they score teachers remains consistent throughout the year. The state only mandates that school principals use Calibration, but Newport decided to take that one step further.
“We utilize Calibration for any school or district level personnel that will be conducting instructional walkthroughs,” Gilkison says. “I have instructional coaches and curriculum coaches in my building that are not required to take the proficiency test because they don’t do formal evaluations, but it’s good for them to know the framework.” This helps the coaches to be more effective as they help teachers improve their practice.
The Teachscape platform includes online learning modules, videos and data reporting tools. The platform’s content library can even be reviewed over the summer to make sure observers stay up-to-date on the framework and reinforce best practices. Prior to adopting the Framework for teaching, Kentucky had no unified evaluation system.
“There were certain regulations the state had lined out, but as far as documents and the processes districts used, it was a district decision,” Gilkison says. “There are 174 districts in the state of Kentucky so there were basically 174 different models being used.”
The new statewide system isn’t just about creating a cohesive evaluation process. It’s about promoting growth and professional learning, a task that has been much easier now that Newport has a way to successfully train its educators in the framework.
“It’s caused everyone to have an increased awareness of the expectations of the components of the framework,” Gilkison says. “I think it has helped improve teacher practice.”