These two questions defined the recent whole district training led in West Valley School District in Spokane, on the transition to new teacher and principal evaluation system. As a facilitator for SEE Washington, I led the entire certificated district staff of about 250 through the three hour opportunity to dialogue and confront the upcoming changes educators face with the new teacher and principal evaluations. Like teaching, the workshop took on a natural cycle of inquiry. Starting with questions, gaining understanding, and ending with deeper questions about the new laws developed by legislators in the new Teacher and Principal Evaluation bills.
In the beginning the questions sound a lot like “Why me?” “Whose idea was this?” and “Where will I find the time?”. As teachers and principals face the newly designed eight criteria of evaluation, a four-tiered system, the teaching and learning framework options of Danielson, Marzano, and the 5 D’s out of UW, along with the use of student growth data, they often look as if they are facing a tsunami.
We started with the idea about why we would want to change our evaluation system in the first place. Reflecting on the limitations of the current binary system of evaluation, short intervals of interaction with a supervisor, and often minimal dialogue about practices led the group to consider that there might be a better way after all.
West Valley took a unique approach in having all certificated staff and administrators participate in the training. The conversation was rich with discussions around specific roles. “What about alternative learners?” “What is unique for small districts in this transition?” Although each staff member worked a typical eight hour day, they stayed engaged for four hours after their regular workday in the activities. We explored the constructivist approach the state took in involving numerous stakeholders in the development of the criteria and legislation. Participants in the training recognized the unique approach Washington has taken in transforming both teacher and principal evaluation simultaneously. Most importantly, they realized how much local control they still hold in guiding the work in their own district.
At the end of the training I reflected with the staff about what their new questions were and what steps they needed to take next after landing on a shared understanding of the instructional shifts that need to be made. Although they developed some new insightful questions and action steps, they also answered some of their initial “tsunami” questions and realized that, “Yes! I want to show how I am growing, and yes! I can do this.” This change is bound to cause some rough waters, but with a shared understanding and rich dialogue we discovered in West Valley that it will not be a tsunami.
This post was written by Shannon Lawson, who also offers these resources for further exploration:
TPEP Site: www.tpep-wa.org
OSPI Resources: www.k12.wa.us/EdLeg/TPEP
Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession: www.cstp-wa.org