ASCD Day 2 – Focus on Evaluation
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 EducatorReady.com
Next up for me – finding my ACT colleagues Darlene Pope, Alice Mercer, and Larry Ferlazzo!