Teacher supervision and evaluation that emphasizes fairness, excellence, and achievement
In this thoroughly revised and updated edition of his bestselling book, education expert Kim Marshall shows how to break away from the typical and often ineffective evaluation approaches in which principals use infrequent classroom visits or rely on standardized test scores to assess a teacher's performance. Marshall proposes a broader framework for supervision and evaluation that enlists teachers in improving the performance of all students.
- Revised edition of the classic book on teacher supervision and evaluation
- Includes thoughts on iPad and iPhone aps for classroom observation
- Offers new chart on how principals can manage ten mini-observations per teacher per year
- Contains new thoughts on merit pay, a different approach to the test-score argument from Arne Duncan
This vital resource also includes extensive tools and advice for managing time as well as ideas for using supervision and evaluation practices to foster teacher professional development.
Kim Marshall was a teacher, central office administrator, and principal in the Boston public schools. He now advises and coaches new principals, working with New Leaders; teaches courses and leads workshops on instructional leadership; and publishes a weekly newsletter, the Marshall Memo, which summarizes ideas and research from fifty publications. (www.marshallmemo.com)
Principal evaluation of teachers is a low-leverage strategy for improving schools, particularly in terms of the time it requires of principals.
—Richard DuFour and Robert Marzano
Write-ups have low to medium leverage on influencing teaching practice.
To many educators, these two quotes from three of America's leading authorities on instructional improvement are shocking and counterintuitive. For decades, the assumption has been that if we want to improve teaching, supervision and evaluation are effective levers. Surely, the argument went, inspecting classroom performance and giving teachers feedback and formal evaluations would make a positive difference.
But when educators take a few minutes to reflect on what DuFour, Marzano, and Saphier are saying, it begins to make sense. I frequently ask groups of administrators to think back to when they were teachers and raise their hands if an evaluation ever led them to make significant improvements in the way they taught. Typically, around 5 percent raise a hand. When I ask if the evaluations that principals themselves have written produce significant classroom improvements, I get a similar response. Most principals sheepishly admit that after all the work they put into all those pre-observation conferences, classroom visits, write-ups, and post-conferences, they rarely see much difference in what teachers do—much less in student achievement.
This is disturbing. It means that school leaders are spending huge amounts of time on a process that rarely improves classroom teaching. And teaching, after all, is the heart of the matter. Research has shown that the quality of instruction is the single most important factor in student achievement (Ferguson & Ladd, 1996; Sanders & Rivers, 1996; Sanders, Saxton, and Horn, 1997; Haycock, 1998; Rivkin, Hanuschek, & Kain, 2005; Whitehurst, 2002; Hattie, 2002; Rice, 2003; Nye, Hedges, & Konstantopoulos, 2004; Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2007).
Good Teaching Really Matters
This was not always the conventional wisdom. For years, factors outside the schoolhouse were believed to be the main determinants of how children did—social class, innate intelligence, family background, community dynamics, negative peer pressure, racism, and discrimination. But now we know that good classroom teaching can overcome the disadvantages with which many students enter school, and that children who grow up in poverty are not doomed to failure. Figure I.1 shows the dramatic difference in the achievement of students who have three years of effective, mediocre, or ineffective teaching.
Figure I.1 Fifth-Grade Math Scores on Tennessee Statewide Test: The Difference the Quality of Teaching Makes as Similar Students Move from Grade 3 to 5
Source: Sanders and Rivers (1996).
Good teaching helps all students, but it turns out that it makes a bigger difference for some than for others. Figure I.2 shows the results of a study that compared the impact of effective and ineffective teachers on students as they moved from fifth to seventh grade. Students who were lucky enough to have effective teaching for three years in a row achieved at almost identically high levels, even though some started with much lower achievement than others. But a matched sample of students who had three years of ineffective teaching fared quite differently: those who started out with high and average achievement were still doing quite well at the end of seventh grade, but students who started out with low skills did much worse. This study and others like it show that low-achieving students benefit disproportionately from good teaching. Unfortunately, the children who need good teaching the most—those who are economically disadvantaged, members of minority groups, and those with special needs and language deficits—are more likely to attend schools with an inexperienced, transient teacher corps and unfavorable, sometimes chaotic learning environments.
Figure I.2 The Impact of Effective and Less Effective Teachers on Grade 5–7 Students with Different Levels of Entering Proficiency
Source: Bracey (1996).
So here's the logic of the preceding paragraphs: (a) teaching really matters, (b) not all teaching is equally effective, (c) teaching quality is unevenly distributed by class and race, and therefore (d) there is an inexorable, day-by-day widening of the achievement gap across the nation.
Some broad societal challenges flow from this analysis: how to get our most effective teachers teaching our neediest students; how to create working conditions that will attract them to some pretty embattled schools; and how to create an esprit in the national teacher corps similar to that among firefighters, among whom the “best and bravest” want to work in firehouses with the “best” fires—that is, the most challenging ones.
But for the short term, we can draw a conclusion with which almost every parent would agree: every principal's most important job is getting good teaching in every classroom.
Which brings us to the subject matter of this book: What is the best way to get effective teaching for every child? For starters, hiring and firing. Removing ineffective teachers is critically important, as is hiring talented and hard-working teachers, since each vacancy is a golden opportunity to upgrade the team. But vacancies don't occur that frequently. So while hiring and firing are tremendously important, this book will focus on strategies for supporting and improving the teachers (ranging from excellent to ineffective) who are in classrooms now.
In recent years, schools and districts have tried a variety of approaches for improving teaching:
- More aggressive supervision and evaluation
- Using test scores to evaluate teachers
- Publishing teachers' test scores in newspapers
- Merit pay for high-performing teachers
- Revamping the teacher evaluation forms that principals fill out
- Doing “learning walk” or “instructional rounds” tours of schools with feedback to the staff
- Getting teachers to visit exemplary classrooms and schools
- Having teachers analyze student work
- Requiring teachers to use highly scripted curriculum programs
- Providing laptop computers for every student
- Encouraging teachers to use the Internet to find effective ideas and materials
- Setting up “critical friends groups” in which teachers read and discuss articles and books
- And the old standby, getting teachers to attend workshops and courses inside and outside their schools
Each of these approaches can contribute to the quality of instruction under the right conditions, and they all have proponents. But I believe there is a much more powerful way to improve teaching and learning and close the achievement gap.
This book will present four closely linked strategies centering on specific actions principals can take: (a) making short, unannounced classroom visits followed by one-on-one feedback conversations, (b) participating much more actively in the curriculum unit planning process, (c) working with teacher teams to analyze and follow up on interim assessment results, and (d) using rubrics for end-of-year teacher evaluation. I believe these are the most effective ways for a principal to exercise instructional leadership and make a real difference at the classroom level. Figure I.3 is a diagram that will evolve over the course of this book to show how the four strategies interact.
Figure I.3 The Four-Part Strategy for Improving Teaching and Learning: Basic Elements
Implementing these four strategies involves fundamental changes in the way principals handle supervision and evaluation and the professional dynamic within schools. School leaders shift in these ways:
- From periodically evaluating teaching to continuously analyzing learning
- From infrequent announced classroom visits to frequent unannounced visits
- From taking extensive notes on one or two lessons a year to watching for key “teaching points” in each of a number of visits
- From guarded, inauthentic communication with teachers to candid give-and-take based on authentic classroom observation
- From formal yearly or twice-yearly evaluations to continuous suggestions and redirection, culminating in an end-of-year evaluation
- From inadvertently sowing envy and division among teachers to empowering and energizing teacher teams
- From teachers saying “Let me do it my way” to everyone asking “Is it working?”
- From administrators doing most of the work to teachers taking on real responsibility for improving teaching and learning
- From evaluating individual lessons to supervising the effectiveness of curriculum units
- From one-right-way evaluation criteria to constantly looking at new ideas and practices
- From focusing mainly on ineffective teachers to improving teaching in every classroom
- From cumbersome, time-consuming evaluations to streamlined rubrics
- From being mired in paperwork to continuously orchestrating schoolwide improvement
This book comes from my own experience, extensive research, and close observation of scores of effective and ineffective schools. Thirty-two years as a Boston teacher, central office administrator, and principal were the...