As school and district leaders approach the end of the 2015–2016 school year, they face the gargantuan task of wrapping up one school year while simultaneously planning for the year ahead. With end-of-year preparations underway, final observations/evaluations to complete, and reams of data to analyze, there’s a lot going on!
We sat down with three administrators to find out how they prioritize their workload during this busy time, and to get their advice on ensuring a smooth and productive year-to-year transition. While they all took a different approach, they all spoke to a few common themes:
- Finalize formal teacher observations.
- Plan for next year’s staffing by hiring new teachers and moving current teachers into leadership positions.
- Dig into data and processes to plan for next year.
- Celebrate the success of this school year!
Ingenium Schools, where Katherine Woodfield is a Curriculum & Instruction Coordinator, is getting ready for the end of the school year by completing their formal observation process, which includes getting buy-in from teachers around their final ratings, and celebrating what their team has accomplished during the year.
How they’re preparing:
- Instructional leaders do one final round of formal observations, where the classroom visit itself is at least thirty minutes long (they use TeachBoost Sketch to record evidence, tag evidence to their framework, and document feedback), and then they schedule a post-observation conference with the teacher.
- During the post-conference, the teacher and the leader go through each piece of evidence collected in the final formal observation and tie it to the teacher’s larger practice across the year.
- After reviewing the evidence together, the teacher and leader determine together what the teacher’s final ratings will be. Leaders at Ingenium often find that teachers are very reflective, and sometimes even too critical of their practice: their principal has to talk them into a higher rating!
- The key to deciding on ratings together is that it increases teacher buy-in, so that the leader can use the rating more broadly. They’ll use it to determine the teacher’s career pathway for the next year, and it may help determine if a teacher is ready for a leadership role, a grade-level lead, tech guru, or lab classroom.
- During the conference, teachers also reflect on the goals they set for the year, and whether or not they think they met them. They might even start thinking about their goals for the following year.
Celebrating and Rewarding Excellent Teaching
- Ingenium hosts a big end-of-year celebration for all of their teachers. The first half of the day, they spend planning the curriculum scope and sequence for the next year; the second half of the day is a district-wide staff party!
- The highlight of the party is an awards ceremony. Katherine indicates that they’re very thoughtful about the awards they give out, because “what you give awards for communicates what’s important to you as an organization.”
- Ingenium rewards teachers who are really moving kids forward—there is a group of awards all about student achievement.
- Leaders also use TeachBoost data to determine award-winners.
- The Teacher of Promise award is for teachers who are new to the organization, and who put learning in students’ hands. Katherine looks at the low-inference notes from her observations to see where students are making choices about their learning. Then, she pulls out a quote or two from the form to share at the awards ceremony, so the teachers’ colleagues can hear what it sounds like when kids drive their own learning.
- The Innovative Practices award is for teachers who are innovating to empower students, try new practices, and be open to feedback.
Katherine says that having TeachBoost as a resource when deciding how to hand out awards has been a life-saver, because she can clearly see who the most excellent teachers are at each school.
- There’s so much potential at the end of the year to go in one of two directions: exhausted and crawling to the finish line, or excited about reflecting on the current year and energized about the next year. Do whatever you can to stay energized.
- Moving those evaluative conversations into the realm of thinking about the next year is helpful—it’s about connecting evaluation to a hopefulness, and helping teachers feel energized. While they’re rejuvenating over the summer, they’re excited and already thinking about what they’re going to do next year—this is what gets really great results.
Downtown College Prep
San Jose, CA
At Downtown College Prep, Director of Teacher Effectiveness Maria Baeza has a lot of different to-dos: she’s working on hiring a team for next year and moving into new space, all while wrapping up summative evaluations and reflecting on the current year!
How they’re preparing:
- Downtown College Prep is rounding out the school year by planning ahead for 2016–17. They’re in the middle of hiring season, since they’ll be growing their staff at a few different schools, and they’ve been busy working on hiring the right people—they watch model lessons from candidates and engage stakeholders at all levels to build the right teams.
Transitioning to New Buildings
- A few DCP schools will be moving into new buildings, so they’re packing up and moving into temporary spaces for the time being. Renovating the space and moving all of their supplies has been keeping them really busy!
- They’re also continuing to do teacher evaluation work through TeachBoost—they wrap up the year with summative evaluations for each teacher, so it’s crucial that they complete 100% of those observations.
Gathering Feedback via TeachBoost
- Maria also wants to have a chance to get feedback from teachers and admins about how using TeachBoost this year has worked for them, and what changes they would make to their account for the following year.
Reflecting and Celebrating
- There will be an administrative retreat after school lets out, to reflect on the current school year and starting thinking through the next one.
- Each school will also have a celebration independently; teachers really appreciate the chance to relax after a long year!
- Maria says that “the end of the year is a great time to go through a reflection process with staff members and host a collaborative open forum to collect feedback!”
- End-of-year is also a time to celebrate what was accomplished, talk through what areas still need to be worked on, and establish goals for the following year (both as a school site and as a larger organization).
- Thinking about where strategic priorities need to be for the following year is best to do at the end of the school year, because everything is fresh. Maria’s advice is to “determine where you want to start so you’re able to begin the summer with a lot of focus.”
KIPP San Antonio
San Antonio, TX
Matt Neal is the Chief Talent Officer at KIPP San Antonio. As summer approaches, he’s thinking about finalizing formal observations and determining how they’re going to use data to plan for 2016–2017.
How they’re preparing:
- KIPP San Antonio is in the midst of their fourth round of benchmark observations. These quarterly snapshots result in a holistic performance evaluation and overall score, which is shared with teachers in their end-of-year 1:1 meeting with their instructional leader.
- These scores are used to place teachers on a performance pathway, determining what their role could be for the next year. It also informs the teacher development budget that the teacher can use for the following year. Says Matt: “As the teacher’s practice improves year-to-year, they get more and more autonomy over how they get better, and can make decisions on their own about how to grow next.”
Teacher Appreciation Week
- KIPP San Antonio hosts events for Teacher Appreciation week, handing out awards for longevity, performance that goes above and beyond, and strong examples of the organization’s values.
Coaching and Data
- They also take this opportunity to see how they did with coaching throughout the year. They look at their data in TeachBoost to determine which coaches effected the most growth, and to spot the greatest correlations between coaching and instructional outcomes. This behind-the-scenes analysis allows them to thoughtfully plan for coaching next year, and to extract coaching best practices to share across schools.
- Matt is thankful to have a “huge treasure trove of data in TeachBoost” around goals, action steps, etc.—the questions his team will be trying to answer as the year closes out are “what works best, and what can we learn from it?”
- “Plan for next year based on what you know to be true from this year based on data—don’t invest a ton of time in norming on coaching if coaching isn’t going to be a priority, or if the data says you don’t need to norm.
- “Don’t draw a ton of inferences from data unless you have someone who’s good at data to crunch the numbers for you.”
- Matt’s biggest piece of advice is to try to get more focused, not less focused, every year based on what you learn from the current year.