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Tailor-made CITE: Evaluation for teachers, by teachers

CASTLE ROCK – In most school districts across the country, a teacher is a teacher is a teacher when it comes to their evaluations. Regardless of whether they teach English literature, physical education, elementary science or art—the tool used to evaluate them is exactly the same.

Douglas County School District is personalizing the approach -- clearly identifying high expectations for every teacher, but allowing the educators to create the criteria so it actually captures and represents the work they’re doing.

“We have had years of forcing one evaluation on a variety of jobs. Now we are taking a better path,” explained Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Christian Cutter. “We are creating evaluations that truly represents every job classification.”
The new evaluation system, known as Continuous Improvement of Teacher Effectiveness (CITE) began three and a half years ago with hundreds of teachers and administrators working to develop the system. Since then that work has been solidified into standards, elements and rubrics that will be used for teacher evaluations this year. Plus, CITE has been ‘crosswalked’ to the state standards mandated by law next year.
“The language makes it very clear—what makes a great teacher, those ‘tells’ of what really makes a great teacher.  It really helps to raise the bar for our profession and that is something I really appreciate,” said Castle View High School art teacher Amanda Kerr.
She is one of dozens of teachers that have been working to adapt CITE to their specific content areas. Following the completion of the CITE rubrics for standard classroom teachers in September, Cutter has been gathering teacher leaders from more than 20 job categories and having them edit and revise CITE specifically for themselves and their colleagues in those fields.
“They had a chance to look at [CITE] and say, ‘so this standard is saying differentiation in the classroom. I’m not going to change the fact that we recognize differentiation as a practice for highly-effective teachers, but what does differentiation look like to a music teacher, to an art teacher to a mental health teacher. They had complete license to define what that looked like in their position, as a highly effective teacher in their classroom, based on their expertise,” Cutter said.
While the concepts within CITE apply to all teachers, the effort is to find ways to ensure it makes sense for every position. They’ve accomplished this work in all but seven positions.
“What an evaluator is going to be looking for is the same across the board. It’s going to be that student engagement, how well you manage your classroom, how well you’re using the tools you have available to you, how well you’re developing the tools that you don’t. Those kinds of things are pretty standard across the board,” explained Kerr. “It’s a matter of getting the person that is coming into your classroom as a non-expert to know what it is they’re looking at.”
Cutter says that was a common theme among the groups he worked with. In many cases the teachers felt differentiating CITE would help the evaluator, who likely has never taught in their expertise, better understand the nuances of their work.
“I must have evaluated hundreds of people in situations where I never actually did their job. I knew what good instruction looked like and I could logically make it connected to PE, for example,” Cutter said. 
He says with the teacher’s feedback they began focusing on a two-fold outcome. “We have a more specific tool that you can use to give a more true evaluation and a tool that enables the person doing the evaluation to truly understand what they need to look for and what highly effective truly is in that environment,” Cutter said.
Teachers involved in the process say they appreciated being part of the process and are proud to see their work being used in the District.
“I really feel like what we have to say is being listened to,” Kerr said.
She has been involved in numerous committees working on the District’s strategic projects, including the formation of World Class Targets and the Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum.
“It’s been really important to me to be part of the process and not just have things tossed at me,” Kerr said. “There is so much that is going on and so much that is really, really good work that is being done by peers who want to move our profession forward and who want to raise the bar for our colleagues and raise the bar for our students as a result.”
She encourages employees to look at the ‘big picture’ before making judgment on all the work being done. 
“I think that it is important that when people are looking at all the work the District is doing that they’re not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Just because they don’t like one part of the message or they don’t necessarily like one part of what is going on that they’re not paying attention to the whole story,” Kerr said.
If you want to better understand how CITE ties into the rest of the work currently being done in DCSD, watch the Connecting the Dots video below.
October 14, 2013 | By Anonymous | Category:

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