Plan. Assess. Guide Instruction. The simplicity of DCSD’s teacher evaluation system
CASTLE ROCK – In Douglas County, instructional best practices are at the center of the teacher evaluation system. The ultimate goal is to ensure that these research-based practices are utilized in every classroom in our District, every day—because we know they are best for our students.
The Continuous Improvement of Teacher Effectiveness (CITE) evaluation tool was built through a collaboration with teachers and administrators over the past five years and is comprised of six standards.
Intentionally, the first three standards –Outcomes, Assessment and Instruction – are tied directly to the backward planning process all teachers use in our District. They are also the topics that we are covering this semester during our Big Picture series.
During backward planning, teachers begin with the Outcome – or the end in mind. They decide what World Class Outcomes from the Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum the unit will focus on. As explained in the story, Our students’ needs bring focus to our curriculum, by incorporating World Class Outcomes (WCO), they are automatically meeting State standards, because each WCO began with the standard and then teachers worked to increase its rigor and relevancy.
Then teachers must determine what measure or Assessment can be used to determine whether students have reached the intended outcome.
Finally, the educators focus on creating the Instruction that they will use to guide students to the chosen outcome.
DCSD CITE Director Ian Wells says the teachers and administrators who created the evaluation system saw a great opportunity. By aligning these best practices to the evaluation system, teachers are now provided clear guidance about the District’s expectations and naturally gravitate towards using them daily.
“Personally I think our evaluation structure is great in its simplicity. We are talking about an evaluation system that really boils down to asking if you are planning, assessing and implementing your instruction well. That simplicity is helpful,” Wells said. “The ultimate goal is to impact student learning,” Wells added. “As parents we want our kids to be high achievers. We want them to grow.”
The State evaluation system, on the other hand is more than 20 pages long and not as easy for teachers and evaluators to navigate.
“The State rubric is hard to use. It is arbitrary, redundant. It is difficult,” Wells said frankly.
|READ MORE: CITE Evaluation - Generalist|
DCSD Evaluation: Focus on student success through teacher effectiveness
Knowing that the most important factor in a student’s success is the effectiveness of their teacher, DCSD’s evaluation system is focused on providing feedback and support so that teachers can improve their craft.
“You want them to be the best at what they can do,” Wells said. “We want to really look at our craft, let’s look at what we’re doing and push the envelope a little bit to be better at what we do. To me it is about improving opportunities for students to learn and to grow. I believe in the impact of shifting the evaluation system to be more rigorous, to be more student-driven.”
Wells says that it is no longer good enough for teachers to just be nice. The success of our students depends upon effective instruction.
“Nice is a great start, but in order to move folks, sometimes you have to have a hard conversation. This is what I’m looking for,” Wells said. “I might be able to entertain kids. I might be great in terms of making them excited about being in my class, but at the same time when push comes to shove and my kids are taking a test at the end of the year and my kids aren’t moving, there is a flaw in what I am doing.”
Annual, rigorous evaluations provide teachers with the feedback they want
Back in 2010, as DCSD began to build its new evaluation system, the teachers and administrators recognized that the old system, in which teachers might have only been observed once a year and evaluated on a checklist was not helpful for teachers that wanted to grow.
“Back in the day, it was hard to evaluate someone if you were in their classroom one day in the year. From that one visit, you may not have had accurate indications of whether someone was great at teaching or needed support in the classroom,” Wells said.
He believes that most teachers want regular feedback, so that they can improve.
Today, CITE is designed to be a continuous and collaborative process, giving teachers and evaluators an opportunity to have a year-long conversation about teaching practices.
“Now the evaluation is a partnership where a teacher can upload evidence to their principal,” Wells said.
A new online system called InspirED Innovation provides a place where this sharing can occur. The evidence often includes lesson plans, assessments and other work that teachers have traditionally produced.
Wells admits that the move to a more rigorous, annual evaluation is not easy, but is worth it.
“It is really hard to achieve this higher standard, but we want to push the envelope. We want to get better and better, because in the end it benefits our students,” Wells said. “ I would argue that it is great for kids, because it makes us look at our pedagogy. It is great for teachers, because it helps them improve their craft. It is great for evaluators, because they are more diligent about being in there.”
“The one thing I’m most proud about this District – having been a student, teacher and now a District-level administrator – is the fact that we are innovative; we are creative and we push the envelope,” said Wells. “This District has always been one of the most progressive school districts in Colorado. Once again we are leading the way with our own evaluation system for the benefit of our students.”
Editors Note: As part of our year-long series, The Big Picture, we are exploring the six goals set by DCSD’s Academic Cabinet, including having schools implement a high-quality evaluation system with fidelity, which incorporates the Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum and Balanced Assessment System, which we focused on in September and October respectively. In November, we will explore how schools are incorporating sustainable learning techniques.