#FutureFriday: 3 Ways Schools are Making Evaluations Better

on February 17, 2017 in Evaluate
Today on #FutureFriday we discuss three innovative ideas that schools are using to make the evaluation process more meaningful and efficient.

Today’s Future Friday happens at a time when thousands of educators are entering the home stretch of their student growth goals; their SGOs or SLTs.

This is a great time to talk about some innovative ideas we’ve seen as schools endeavor to take back teacher evaluations –to make them more meaningful and less burdensome.

To help with that, today I have former teacher, current ed-tech rockstar Nichelle Tolbard here to talk with us.

Nichelle: The Rise of Classroom Walkthroughs

We’ve all been navigating our way through those incremental classroom observations and now in the second half of the year, it is time to think about evaluations.

In a recent poll, 41% of administrators expressed that even after a handful of years into this regimented staff evaluation thing, they are still struggling with the added burden on time and resources in their school district.


Some of the states that we work with are reporting that their departments of education are responding in really creative ways by reducing the required number of observations throughout the year, and minimizing the amount of time that administrators have to spend in the classroom.

If I’m honest, I have conflicting feelings on this news.

Now, if I put on my educator hat, I’m jumping for joy. It’s a shorter amount of time that I’m sweating bullets hoping that nothing insane occurs in my classroom because… ya know “murphy’s law” if it can happen it will happen especially on observation day.


But there’s this other side of administrators having less time in the classroom gives them less of an opportunity to experience first-hand all of the magic that teachers are working hard to create each day.

Which brings us to our first big point. K12 schools are witnessing the rise of the Walkthroughs (again… because it’s making a comeback). If administrators are getting less time during formal observations then they are soaking in the classroom experience with informal Walkthroughs to be able to provide teachers with more valuable, actionable feedback before challenges in the classroom become detrimental to their teaching practice. Offering educators many small opportunities to improve and prepare for larger formal evaluations.

Tre: It was kinda inevitable that walkthroughs would re-emerge.

Back when we implemented our research-based instruments,  it was a great foundation. But these rubrics were so exhaustive, that right away we noticed that many skilled observers, once they tuned into the context of the classroom they were visiting, starting triaging their framework to focusing on what mattered most.

So rather than chopping up the framework - schools using OnCourse Evaluate will be happy to hear that OnCourse Walkthrough now comes free with your subscription, which will help you make quick and easy work of this process.

Tre: Getting Creative with PD

That’s exactly what gets me most excited - is all the creativity I see to amlipfy the parts of this process that we find most effective at promoting professional growth.

Here's another great thing - differentiating support based on teacher needs. This January, I got to listen to a district who turned their Professional Growth Plans into PPDPs – personalized development plans – or individualized technology plans.

Rather than getting the ol’ PGP form. The teacher gets interviewed, sets their own personal growth goal, and they work with the Vice Principal throughout the year to build A PD track individual to their professional goals.

This is a great way to reframe this process, no punitive action, and this is the authentic and meaningful part of their approach.

So that’s helpful for individual teacher growth goals; but what about for the entire school?

One of the systems I love comes from our friends at Saint Martin Parish School District, who have an innovative take on Learning Walks that has one of the fastest turnarounds ever.

Saint Martin Parish SD chooses key elements of their instrument, then deploys a squad of observers to sweep through all the classrooms and jot down key Look-Fors using OnCourse Evaluate.

Then, by the time they walk out the door, they can hand the school leaders a graph of teacher performance that’s a very good estimate of where school professional development could get the most bang for its buck.

The crux of this success is timely data, which I know is near and dear to Nichelle’s heart.

Nichelle & Tre: Can Evaluation Data Be More Accessible?

Nichelle: Evaluation software is collecting heaps of data. But what are we doing with it? Don’t we want better insights into what trends are occurring with staff performance and specifically teacher observations in each school?

I know I don’t want to be that superintendent that comes to school ready to enjoy my Friday morning, only to realize that there‘s secretly an uprising mutiny among school staff because Ted had a rough month and like an ******* decided to score everyone at a 1 - ineffective, and now I have to find answers to questions that I was completely in the dark on.

Tre: That speaks to the question of inter-rater reliability, which we feel like we have sorted by now.

But data helps us bring this full circle, for example, when OnCourse Evaluate is combined with OnCourse Analytics, now I can see observation scores by observer.

In these color coded bars, I can see instantly who my most…uh…rigorous evaluators are.


Data visualization also helps us unpack our instrument – how is PD impacting observation scores throughout the year?  Now I can look at dashboards to find out.

I can even look at the progression of attainment levels on SGOs.

If you are still in the muck of logistics, get real-time feedback on when observations are happening, how many are waiting for signatures, that kinda stuff.

To wrap up today, we salute you for all the terrific work you are doing growing effective practices, and we hope you got some ideas from today’s session. If you are interested in blogging about great things happening at your school district, we’d like to invite you to contact us at this e-mail address and let us know your topic!


Thanks to Nichelle for joining me on #FutureFriday, and we’ll see you in two weeks!


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