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Observations

Local Flexibility for Educator Evaluations. Educators Matter.

Promising practices of flexibilities, efficiencies, and differentiation within observations

Did You Know?

The State Model Evaluation System does not differentiate or define observation type (formal/informal, timing, or duration); these are all defined by the district. Additionally, districts have the flexibility to determine when or if pre/post conferences are necessary. The only legislation regarding observations is that non-probationary teachers receive at least one observation each year and probationary teachers receive at least two observations each year. Legislation also requires evaluators to gather enough evidence upon which to base ratings.


Ideas in Observation

Example of conducting observations in remote/virtual setting

Colorado principals who are already working on remote/virtual settings are sharing their experiences conducting observations with educators in ways that provide opportunities for meaningful feedback, conversation, and reflection. One principal in rural Colorado joins in class sessions on Zoom and GoTo Meeting, uses the teacher rubric within the state model evaluation system (having done so for multiple years), and utilizes the Colorado Performance Management System (COPMS) in RANDA for note-taking and collaborative progress monitoring with teachers. During these unprecedented times, and educators having to adapt their instructional practices to respond to changing settings and needs of their students and communities, opportunities for thoughtful observations and meaningful feedback remains. CDE is in the process of gathering and highlighting examples from across Colorado that illustrate ways that principals/observers/evaluators are conducting observations in remote/virtual settings. The Providing Effective Observations and Feedback in Multiple Learning Environments webpage offers links to resources, guidelines, and frameworks that support effective observations in remote/virtual settings. In addition, an Addendum to the Resource Guide for Deepening the Understanding of a Teacher's Professional Practices highlights ways in which the current teacher rubrics within the state system can be applied in remote/virtual settings.

Example of adjusting the number and type of observations

Instead of formal observations, one district decided to use walk-throughs to capture a full body of evidence throughout the school year and include classroom evidence as well as what educators do outside of the classroom, such as professional learning communities (PLCs), parent-teacher conferences and team meetings. Walk-throughs are no more than 15-20 minutes with the focus on getting to every teacher at least once in a two- to three-week window. Feedback is recorded on a form that is aligned to the rubric and electronically shared with the educator at the end of each day. The district finds this strategy to be more efficient as it reduces the time required for pre- and post-conferences and a full formal observation.

Example of differentiating length of observations for highly effective educators

In an attempt to increase efficiency and manage time, educators in one Colorado district agreed to a process differentiated for those teachers who earn a rating of highly effective the previous year. In these cases, observations are a series of walk-throughs rather than a formal observation. Educators have the right to request a formal observation if they feel that would be beneficial. However, most are finding that the shorter, more frequent observations are resulting in more opportunities for evaluators to observe a broad range of professional practices.

Example of adjusting announced and unannounced observations

Because districts can define what an observation looks like, one district decided to incorporate more informal and unannounced observations by moving away from their traditional model of a pre-conference, formal observation, post-conference that happened two times a year for each educator. To ensure educators were ready for the change, the district communicated the purpose for gathering a full body of evidence and adopted a transition plan for the first school year of implementation.

In the fall, they scheduled the traditional formal observation with a pre- and post-conference with each teacher. They started doing informal observations in the fall as well with both announced and unannounced walk-throughs. During the spring semester the second formal observation was unannounced with a post-conference and the walk-throughs were all unannounced. The spring focus was based on missing or discrepant evidence after the principals and teachers met at the mid-year review. During the spring semester of this transition year, the district received positive feedback about these changes and plans to repeat this format for next school year.


Example of pre- and post-observations

Another district no longer uses the formal pre- and post-conference model now that evaluation is more of a process that builds a body of evidence over time rather than an event that occurs once or twice a year. Data are collected through a variety of observation methods including short walk-throughs of 15-20 minutes, observing PLCs and full classroom observations. Teachers still have the ability to request a short pre-conference, for example, when they want to inform the evaluator of something they might want feedback on. Likewise, a principal may communicate to a teacher through a variety of informal methods (e.g. email, conversation threads in Colorado Performance Management System or RANDA, in person) about specific areas for which they may be looking. Feedback may be provided similarly after each "observation" or a short informal conference, if desired. Not only has this provided a relief in the amount of time spent in pre- and post-conferencing, but teachers have reported this model feels more like "coaching" and less like "evaluating." As a result, teachers are engaging in more meaningful conversations with their principal around continuous growth and improvement in their skills.


Example of investing in a walk-through form for their performance management system

One district has had a walk-through form for a number of years that teachers and administration value. They cross-walked the walk-through form “look-fors” to the teacher rubric and invested district resources for a customization to the Colorado Performance Management System or RANDA. Walk-through observations were indicated as an icon as a part of the Evaluator Assessment rubric. This allows the district to continue to utilize a tool they value and have it easily incorporated into the State Model Evaluation System as evidence. Principals no longer had a stack of walk-through forms to review, analyze and manually enter into the system.


Colorado Stories in Observation

Differentiating the timing of observations for veteran and novice teachers in Bayfield

  

In Southwest Colorado, principals at Bayfield School District use a tiered-observation structure for teachers to maximize time and resources when conducting formal observations and providing feedback and support. Veteran teachers receive formal observations first, followed by more novice teachers. This gives new teachers time to settle into the district, while honing their practices through informal observations and feedback. It also allows principals and veteran teachers to build on prior years' evaluations to develop strong professional growth goals based on the first formal observation. Throughout the formal observation process, principals continue to provide support to newer teachers while collecting evidence to guide their mid-year reviews. According to one principal, “The tiered observation structure makes efficient use of time by providing the flexibility to focus on different groups of teachers at different times of the school year. It also allows me to differentiate support based on the experience levels of teachers I am formally observing."


Using Technology to Complete Observations in South Central Colorado 
  

South Central BOCES covers approximately 10,000 square miles with 22 specialized staff traveling to 12 districts to provide services. In order to schedule, complete, and then provide feedback in a timely manner for observations, executive director/special education director Amy Bollinger, uses virtual technology by "zooming" in to many different locations...all in the same day! Amy shares, "This has been an efficient way to schedule observations while still being effective throughout the process of completing the components of specialized staff evaluations. This approach has not replaced the "in-person" observations and feedback sessions, but it's become the next best thing! To date, we have not experienced challenges; it just frees us up to be more spontaneous and efficient in the use of our time. Ultimately, we make even more 'connections' than typically available since there is no travel needed!"


Using observations and the Performance Management System to calibrate evaluators
  

Just east of Colorado Springs, Ellicott School District 22 serves just over 1,100 students. Here, evaluators are using the Colorado Performance Management System or RANDA to implement bimonthly instructional rounds. During these rounds, district administrators and principals visit schools in pairs to observe classroom instruction. All evaluators have been added to RANDA as coaches for all staff outside their buildings allowing them to input all observation information into the system. Pairs then compare their observation “checks” with each other as they leave a classroom to calibrate their ratings. While some teachers have resisted having administrators that are not their direct evaluator in their room offering feedback, the district is finding this approach to greatly enhance the calibration of their evaluators. “Evaluators are coaching staff in other buildings, giving teachers a fresh perspective from an outsider. Evaluators can also compare their observations with each other to calibrate and remove bias,” says Niko Kaloudis, Director of Innovation.  

Explore More

Find a way to get connected by contacting your regional specialist for individual support, joining a PLC with districts/BOCES wanting to explore a similar topic, or sharing your promising practice.