5 Strategies to Simplify the Complexities of Personalizing Evaluations and Professional Development

Supporting personalized professional growth
By: | Issue: July, 2015 | Web Seminar Digest
June 5, 2015

State legislation, local culture, industry thought leaders and other factors influence the approach a school district takes in defining evaluation frameworks for teachers, leaders and staff. These variables give rise to an ever-changing set of policies, standards and evaluation rubrics that add to the complexity of educator effectiveness programs. In this web seminar, originally broadcast on May 14, 2015, presenters discussed five strategies to help ease such evaluation complexities, so that less time is spent on paperwork and more time is spent driving educators’ professional growth.

Founder and Chief Product Officer

Success in a job is partly determined by the support you receive. We’ve all had that job where we felt like we were appreciated and could accomplish anything. This is what is known as an environment of personalized support. We also may have had that job where we felt disempowered, unappreciated and potentially lost. This is the environment I call “figure it out for yourself.” A supported environment offers a full cycle of support that is personalized, integrated, and fostered by leadership. It encourages empowerment and accomplishment through goal-setting, feedback and practice.

Truenorthlogic feels that all of the following systems need to be in place and sharing data between them in order to support highly effective employees:

certification tracking
comprehensive induction and onboarding
mentoring support
clear paths and yearly goal-setting
access to relevant, personal PD
an evaluation and/or feedback process

These systems need to connect and work together to provide a fully cyclical environment that creates highly effective employees. This may sound easy. However, in our experience working with districts across the country, getting all these systems working together has its challenges. The first is that each district often has a large number of rules regarding these processes. We call these rules the “fine print.” The reason districts have these rules is because there are a lot of constituents at the tableÑschool boards, parents, government and/or funders. The second challenge is that districts often are doing work in many separate systems, so it’s very difficult to have a centralized and connected personal growth process. When data and systems are in so many places, it makes it difficult for the work to be cohesive, or to gain a holistic view of our staff’s careers and the support they need. So instead, it compounds the problem.

Finally, the reality is that most administrators don’t have the time to give personal feedback, to monitor progress, to oversee professional development, or to mentor. This is where we come inÑwe provide a solution that makes it easier to foster a full cycle of personalized growth. Truenorthlogic’s platform hides the complexities of the rules, the fine print, by automating them behind the scenes. It brings all the work together in a unified platform and gives administrators simple tools to enable them to focus on providing personalized support of their staff. In the last 15 years, Truenorthlogic has worked exclusively with many of the leading districts and states throughout the country. We are helping millions of educators to become the best they can be for our country’s children. We have been building our software in partnership with these school districts, and we’ve always been focused completely on staff development and professional growth systemsÑwe haven’t just moved into it as a side note. Our core mission is to help you create more people like you: passionate leaders moving education forward.

Quality Compensation Grant Manager
Minneapolis Public Schools

We have 2,700 classroom teachersÑclearly a reason to move from a paper-based program to something that collects data more efficiently. We also have 700 related service professionals (such as psychologists and counselors), 1,800 educational support professionals, around 35,000 students, and we operate 76 schools. In 2009-10 we heard that our state was developing a requirement for teacher evaluation, and that the statute would be imposed on districts that couldn’t figure it out. We had started a relationship with Truenorthlogic in 2006 with a learning management system, but we didn’t have the evaluation component built in at that time. So it was the perfect time for us to ask them: Can you help us develop an evidence-based protocol for collecting our data? We needed a teacher evaluation growth and support model that enabled us to use data to empower leaders at school sites. We could use the data to empower our district and to identify PD needs, to inform our recruiting, and to develop a system that could house and manipulate that data so that we could use it across all the related systems.

Human Capital Project Coordinator
Minneapolis Public Schools

Our schools are using 11 different rubrics for 11 different evaluation plans. Our teacher observation plan consists of four observations a year, two of which are completed by an administrator, and the other two completed by a peer. We have three different types of observations. And we have different tracks set up for our probationary and tenured teachers, which determine the combination of observations they receive. Our Truenorthlogic solution, which we titled eCompass, gives us a lot of flexibility.

Our principal observations are set up similarly, except they receive only three observations a year, conducted by an associate superintendent. Our assistant principal observations are completed by a principal. The eCompass platform allows us to choose which type of observer should be doing which type of observation. Minneapolis has eight different related service groups that all use their own distinct rubric, with their own observation plans. Having the ability to create specific rubrics that reflect the different needs of these groups was important to us.

There are three components to the related service observation plans: observation by program leads, by peers and by site-based administrators. Again, eCompass allows all of our different groups to choose which type of observation should occur and the freedom to create our own group-specific rubric for all these different plans. After we collect our evidence and enter it into the system and reflect, we are able to pull the data from eCompass. That helps us make our professional development decisions across all levelsÑfor the classroom, the team, the school, the department and the district as a whole.

Paul Hegre: The principal or academic leader can look at the data for their site to see if there’s a trend and a need for specific personal PD. They can look at a teamÑa school, or a departmentÑand identify topics to incorporate in the PD. For example, last summer they identified student self-assessment as being very low across the district. So the PD included how we can improve self-assessment.

Korbyn King: The first strategy to simplify the complexity of personalizing evaluations and professional development is eliminating silos of data. We are able to take data from our observations and put it in one place where everyone can go. The second strategy is to automate, which we have been able to do, and with the sheer number of our users, that is incredible. Third, change management is an important strategyÑlooking at the best practices for addressing the change in approaches, processes and technology. The fourth strategy is aligning the evaluation outcomes to professional development, as Paul just spoke on. It’s been great being able to gather this data and assign professional development based on these outcomes. And the fifth strategy is to use a reliable and scalable technology solution, which we have done with eCompass.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit: www.districtadministration.com/ws051415

Interested in edtech? Keep up with DA's Future of Education Technology Conference®.