Arriving at Rensselaer Central Schools Corporation in Indiana as assistant superintendent in July, 2012, after four years with the Indiana Department of Education, one of my first tasks was to develop a plan for our administrators to better comply with the state’s new teacher evaluation law.
Similar to other states’ criteria, our teacher evaluation system is a complex instrument that measures teachers in four domains: Planning, Instruction, Leadership, and Core Professionalism. Each domain has 19 total indicators. Administrators were tasked with using this evaluation with every teacher, every year, starting with the 2012-2013 school year. In addition, every teacher was required to be observed multiple times a year. This was a tremendous change from prior practice—for both teachers and administrators.
The challenge for me was to find an efficient, user-friendly way to do this without using reams of paper in the process. Fortunately, because of my work at the Indiana Department of Education, I was familiar with teacher evaluation tools and ultimately selected Standard for Success to assist us. It was important that the new software be intuitive, as we were looking for something that was easy to set up and easy to learn. As with any purchase of this nature, we had to take cost into consideration, and Standard For Success’ price was competitive.
The Standard for Success evaluation software provides the rubric for each teacher. Principals can mark on the rubric either a positive or a negative reaction to something they see during the observation, based on one of the standards or indicators. They can then write a short narrative, giving either positive feedback or constructive criticism, based on what they saw.
Documents and/or files also can be attached for the teacher to look at or read as a way of improving their instruction. The teacher(s) can can receive rubrics with the principal’s comments and have the opportunity to provide written feedback, as well as attach documents to share with the principal.
First, the administrators were trained in a 90-minute hands-on training session followed by a roll out to 125 certified teachers across four buildings, grades K through 12. In about a 45-minute session, they were shown how to access their evaluations and how to respond and provide feedback of their own. The teachers have the ability to review which areas needed improvement, and where the teacher was meeting expectations. Our IT department got involved in loading all of our teacher information (name, grade, building, etc.) into the program. This included one teacher who has been teaching for over five decades. They all caught on to the system immediately.
Now in our second year of using the new software, the entire process has become seamless and transparent. Teachers get immediate feedback, which arrives in the teacher’s email as soon as the principal sends it to them, and the constructive conversations that result from the detailed information has really helped the classroom instruction. This is a win-win for everyone.
Gary Bates is assistant superintendent of Rensselaer Central Schools in Indiana.