Classroom Observations - How Do I Get Them All In?!'s picture

If you have not taken the time to fully read The Revised School Code (Excerpt), Act 451 of 1976, 380.1248 and 380.1249, I would highly encourage you to sit down with a highlighter and take a deep dive. The more you read and dig into the law, the more comfortable you will become with navigating the evaluation process and keeping it a top priority. Since 2011, the meaning behind teacher evaluation has changed significantly. Gone are the days where seniority was the deciding factor for layoffs, among other privileges. The changes have created anxiety for both teachers and administrators. Evaluation protocols went from a system of meaningless check marks, to a very rigorous and litigious process with several components that are critical to your role as an evaluator. It has been a cumbersome transition as expectations continue to evolve eight years later. The 2018-19 school year rings in the new mandates by requiring 40 percent of a teacher's final evaluation be based on student growth and assessment data. If the educator teaches a core subject or a grade in which state assessments are mandatory, then half of that (20 percent overall) must be measured using state assessments.

There is the silver lining. Evaluations should be about growth and development and you should find comfort in the fact that there are now clear expectations, a shared language around what good teaching and learning looks like and transparency across the state. The key is for building principals to embrace the process and use the tool to acknowledge and celebrate the great things your teachers are doing. It is just as important to give very specific, concrete feedback that can target growth and develop classroom instruction, which ultimately impacts student achievement. Classroom observations can no longer be treated as something your check-off your "To Do List." They must be intentionally scheduled and at the top of your priorities each and every day. Conducting observations can be one of the most critical and powerful things you do as a building leader. Through this process you can demonstrate your integrity as a leader, hold people accountable for teaching and learning, build trust, make large strides toward school improvement and finally use data to drive instruction. Yes, all of this can be done when the culture around the evaluation process is healthy and transparent.

In order to get all of the components of the evaluation process in (growth plans, IDPs, classroom observations, feedback, data meetings, mid-year evaluations, etc.), you must be very systematic and create a calendar/timeline that is communicated immediately and often. By communicating the observation calendar, you provide clear expectations for the staff and the staff knows what to expect from you. This simple move of transparency allows everyone to breathe a little easier, makes the process predictable and demonstrates to the staff that the evaluation process is a priority in your building and in the district. Stick to the calendar as closely as possible but have a backup plan for those unexpected interruptions that occur when working with students. If a planned classroom observation requires an unavoidable cancellation, have your secretary notify the teacher
immediately as courtesy and reschedule the observation as soon as possible. If an unplanned observation gets disrupted, again have your secretary put a new date on your calendar allowing you to stay on track. There are a lot of moving parts and getting off track can make for a stressful year end. Manage your calendar, don’t allow your calendar to manage you.

Classroom observations cannot and should not be single events that happen once or twice a year. With today's laws and tools, the process must be ongoing and part of your daily routine. Leverage the recent changes to teacher evaluation to benefit your building and positively acknowledge the work that consistently supports student growth. Provide feedback that is honest and actionable to ignite improvement in areas of immediate need. Hold yourself accountable for your important role as an instructional leader by being courageous and holding your staff accountable for their impactful role as classroom teachers.

Attached is a sample calendar for the 2018-19 school year. (Word file) It may be a helpful starting point for you and your administrative team to use and/or edit to meet the needs of your staff.

Written by Carol Baaki Diglio, an MASSP Consultant with Consulting by Diglio. Carol is a veteran administrator who recently retired from the Novi School District. She spent many years as a High School Principal and as the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.