Teacher Evaluation=Leadership

Interesting Ideas

I wanted to write this week about the Teacher Performance Appraisal (TPA) process and share with a you a few Interesting Ideas as you make your way through your evaluations this year.  

No matter where you are located or what your process is for teacher evaluation in your district I imagine we share enough similarities that these Interesting Ideas should resonate with you.

Based on the size of your school and the cycle that is employed there could be years where you have many evaluations to carry out.  In my time there were extremely busy years and years where the cycle meant there were less.  Now, always being in large schools still meant that even quieter years still came with many teacher evaluations. It would be a shame if your teachers did not get the best from the process or from you during a year that there were many evaluations. 

While you may have countless evaluations to carry out, for the experienced teacher, they are going through the process once every 5 years in Ontario. Administrators transfer schools and teachers move schools, therefore it is most likely that the evaluations you will be doing this year are the only time you will conduct the evaluation process with those individual teachers. For that reason I always tried to put time and energy into the process regardless of the number I needed to carry out in a year.

In order to motivate me to do the best that I could do for my teachers, my self talk revolved around this need to do it well since the process is once every five year.  I wanted to give the evaluation my full attention and for the teacher create a supportive process that would strengthen their teaching and our relationship.

There is a document for you to consider. Supporting the Ontario Leadership Strategy: Principals Want to Know, Issue #19 from April of 2012. That particular issue was called Annual Learning Plans and Teacher Performance Appraisal. It is now dated in a sense, but contains lots of still relevant information on this topic.

What could be considered a managerial task by some, really is a leadership opportunity of us all. In the document a question is raised, ‘How can I augment the learning culture of my school by effectively engaging teachers in their Annual Learning Plans (ALP) and Teacher Performance Appraisal (TPA)?” 

What a great question.

The answer is provided in the section of the document titled ‘Five Tips for Success’

  1. Embed learning focused conversations in your daily interactions with teachers
  2. Collaborate with teachers
  3. Build coherence between ALP/TPA and other school, board and ministry initiatives and priorities
  4. Align professional learning and resources with teachers’ ALPs (a huge part of my previous blog)

And, finally the focus of this blog

5)   Use the TPA as a growth-oriented opportunity

Remember, for each teacher it is once every five years!

The TPA provides you with an opportunity to really dig deep, to ask important questions and provide the support requested from your teachers.  All along you have been having conversations, providing support, being in classrooms, and seeing teachers in action daily. The TPA process allows you to slow down (as much as an administrator can) and really bring value to the experience.  This formal process allows you to peel back some layers and go much deeper.

First off I go to the teachers’ classroom.  I go to their environment.  I don’t conduct the meetings in my office.  In their classroom is where they make the magic, it is where all their resources and materials are kept.  Comfort will be increased if I go to them.

I ask permission to review their professional resources on my time, not their time.  If they can leave a ‘resource section’ of a table or desk for me I can come and go and pick up a binder or notebook to look at on my own time, and not waste valuable discussion time flipping through their resources with them present.  I should be able to tell what is happening in practice when reviewing each resource!  Their parent communication binder, their short and long range plans, their connections to the curriculum, their assessment and evaluation binder, their occasional teacher resource binder etc, etc.  If I have questions, I place the question on a post it note and discuss it with the teacher when we are together.  I can take my time, look deeply at the work they are doing, and save them time by not having to explain what in many cases is self explanatory.

The same review process is used for online resources.  I ask permission for things to be shared with me so I can review and take notes during times when we are not together.

When we do get together we can have a targeted discussion about their annual learning plan, what I saw in their resources, the notes from my classroom observation and provide support and advice that is forward thinking feedback. Feed forward, not feed back!

The most important outcomes for our time together include acknowledging the great work they are doing; filling their bucket; discussing their goals; and asking how I can help. 

Now is an important time to clarify this is a completely different process if the teacher is struggling and may receive an unsatisfactory evaluation. I will say that if you are waiting for the formal TPA process in order to get into the classroom to coach, model, support and have difficult conversations about their commitment or performance then you are not doing what is expected of you. You cannot wait for those conversations, the students in those classes and the families of those students are trusting in you that a qualified dedicated professional is working each day.

The comments I have been making about the collaborative TPA process with administration and teacher is for the large percentage of our educators that are doing wonderful work.

The 5 domains in the Ontario Teacher Performance Appraisal come from the Ontario College of Teachers’ Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession.  The five domains are:

  • Commitment to Students and Student Learning
  • Professional Knowledge
  • Professional Practice
  • Leadership in Learning Communities and
  • Ongoing Professional Learning

After the formal classroom visit(s) I view our post observation discussion as having two areas of focus.  The first area of focus revolves around their view of the lesson, their comments, corrections, next steps etc as well as my impressions.  This conversation revolves around the first three domains listed above.  While viewing the teacher working with students in a classroom an administrator is able to find evidence of commitment to students and student learning, professional knowledge and practice.  Goal setting and next steps are generated based on this classroom aspect and as an administrator I provide my support for the growth of the teacher in this regard.

The second area of focus stems from the final two domains that cannot be gleaned from a classroom visit, but instead, require a rich conversation with lots of questions.  Leadership in Learning Communities and Ongoing Professional Learning are not seen during a classroom visit.  It is during this second part of the conversation that the relationship is strengthened, support is provided for areas identified, and you really get to know your staff members’ goals, dreams and wishes.  This conversation has been an important beginning conversation for those staff members that have left the classroom to move towards positions at a board, or system level and/or to move into the administration role.

The Ontario College of Teachers have many amazing resources and documents.  One in particular that has assisted me with these final two domains of the TPA process is the OCT Professional Learning Framework for the Teaching Profession June 2016.  In the middle of this resource is a placemat about the Conceptual Framework for Ongoing Professional Learning.  Using this placemat as the basis for our conversation, together we are able to see potential pathways for more learning.  Opportunities such as: Community and Social Justice Experiences, Professional Inquiry, Curriculum Design, Development and Assessment, Research and Scholarship provide a potential road map of considerations for your teachers.

The entire Teacher Performance Appraisal process is a tremendous opportunity for you to appreciate and acknowledge your teachers.  It is a chance to bucket fill and provide a document that they can magnet. on their refrigerator to share with loved ones.  

Five years!  They are deserving of positive comments that for a moment in time make all the hard work worthwhile.

Think of the conversations you can have. Think what you can learn about your staffs’ fabulous teaching practices.  Think about how you can motivate and appreciate.  Think about how you can influence. Think about how you can direct and give support.

It does take work on your part.  Yes, there are so many other things that need to be done with your time.  It is a necessary process, a management piece that can have a huge impact on your relationships and culture.  Take a deep breath, convince yourself that it is an important aspect that requires your best attention.  Done well, it provides so many benefits.

References (Placemat)

Ontario College of Teachers. (2006). The ethical standards for the teaching profession. Toronto, ON: Author. 

Ontario College of Teachers. (2006). The standards of practice for the teaching profession. Toronto, ON: Author. 

RRO 176/10. Teachers’ Qualifications Regulation of the Ontario College of Teachers Act

References (Supporting the Ontario Leadership Strategy)

Robinson, Viviane (2007). The impact of leadership on student  outcomes: Making sense of the evidence. Melbourne: Australian  Council for Educational Research  

Stronge, J. and P. Tucker (2003). Handbook on Teacher Evaluation:  Assessing and Improving Performance. Eye on Education  Publications  

© Queens Printer for Ontario, 2010 ISSN # 1923-9653 (Online)

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