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ASCD Day 2 – Focus on Evaluation

March 27, 2011

I’m back for more at the ASCD 2011 Annual Conference.  I came to the conference with two main goals for my own development: learn more about implementation of professional learning communities, and learn more about teacher evaluation.  Yesterday I hit sessions about PLCs, and today’s focus will be evaluation.

The most interesting session yesterday was a presentation by the folks from Barrington Public Schools, in Rhode Island.  I was impressed at their process and their human touch in thinking about teachers and students.  But the lingering question for me turned out to be more about the teaching profession.  I’ll take what I learned at their presentation and try to put it to good use in my own school and district, but I kept coming back to the part of their story about teachers voluntarily adding days to their work year in order to do professional development.  I commend those teachers for their commitment to student learning.  Adding a day or two to the year without expecting more pay seems reasonable, maybe noble.  But apparently, after adding a day or two, they added a day or two more, and more, and ended up at seven days of additional work.  If they all agree to that, it’s fine and commendable, but I worry that at some point they’re letting the community and the political leadership get off easy.  What are the limits of our generosity?  How do you hold the general public and the policy makers accountable for their supposed commitment to public education if you keep giving more from one side and expect nothing in return?  But that’s a topic for a later date, perhaps.

It was also fun to stop by the exhibit floor to catch up with one of my blogging mentors and favorite PLC thinkers, Bill Ferriter. I don’t know how he does it – full-time teaching, blogging, writing books, and being a dad and husband.  For those of us at the beginning stages of PLC work, Bill’s book Building a Professional Learning Community at Work is worth checking out.  Teachers at my school found the book useful as we planned a new direction for ongoing, job-embedded professional growth.

Today’s first session was quite interesting, too.  Janet Pilcher talked about a teacher-driven effort to improve teacher evalations.  Using a process somewhat similar to that used by Accomplished California Teachers in our report on the topic of teacher evaluation, Pilcher and her associates convened a group of eleven outstanding teachers to talk about what’s missing in most teacher evaluations, and what a better system would look like.  Based in Florida, they’re wrestling with political realities that are at time antithetical to any complex and meaningful understanding of quality teaching and learning – but given those distasteful constraints, they’ve come up with ideas that deserve careful consideration, and which generated lively discussion in the session.  Read more at

Next up for me – finding my ACT colleagues Darlene Pope, Alice Mercer, and Larry Ferlazzo!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lynne Formigli permalink
    March 29, 2011 1:08 pm

    I understand the urge to donate our time (unpaid) for “the children” Unfortunately, this devalues our professional. Time and again, teachers bear the burden of inadequate funding; paying out of our own pockets for supplies for our classrooms and students, paying our own way to conferences because there is no funding available, always being told to “do more with less” and as stated above, giving away our most precious resource, time. I think we need to work toward getting away from the martyr complex. While filling the holes out of our pockets solves the short term problem, in the long term it actually hurts the very students we wish to help. We do a disservice to our schools and our students when we let the teaching profession be treated as though our time and resources are free

  2. Brady Evans permalink
    April 1, 2011 5:52 pm

    I agree, the DuFour team has a lot of insights (they are the founders of the Solution Tree’s “At Work” series, I believe).

    Another new to the field author, Daniel Venables, has a book (That Practice of Authentic PLCs) that I just purchased that is definitely worth looking at: . There are sample chapters there, too.

    I wish my school had the funding to send me to the ASCD conference – so many rich things going on there. Thanks for keeping us non-attendees in the loop.

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