This post is part of TeachBoost's series, From Vision to Reality: Pulling the Right Levers for Transformational Instructional Leadership. Check out all the posts in our series, then subscribe to our blog to have posts delivered to your inbox as we publish new pieces.
Previously we discussed the importance of choosing a partner, not a vendor. Why? Because a partner doesn't just solve your immediate need; in fact, they work with you to achieve your long-term vision. For example, TeachBoost provides a partnership that allows organizations to streamline their current observation, feedback, and coaching processes by moving beyond compliance to enable growth and development around evidence.
Moving Beyond Compliance
"Evaluation is no longer just a compliance exercise. It's about the growth and development of our teachers and leaders." —Kate Sugarman
As with any fledgling program, tracking compliance and making sure your leaders dot the Is and cross the Ts in your new evaluation process is imperative. This way you ensure that your Theory of Action is fully enacted and any fresh workflows are entrenched. But once your program spreads its wings, you may find it's time to focus on the quality rather than the quantity of evaluations.
When the program at Oakland Schools was fully established, Ms. Sugarman and the district team encouraged a shift in approach: "We wanted to focus on the quality of instruction and of feedback—not completion or checking off a box." With this adjustment of focus, the risk of overwhelming your leadership is greatly reduced.
Now, the Oakland leadership team regularly meets with their principals and ensures that check-ins are meaningful and geared towards their real, day-to-day experiences. She adds:
"Every time we meet with principals to focus on high-quality instruction, participants are most engaged when we ask them to bring in real-life examples from their classrooms. This is the work they want to do."
Finding What Works
"Compliance doesn't allow for creativity" says Sabrina La Londe. "We meet compliance, but we now do it in a way that maximizes our support for teachers and fits our culture."
At Estacada School District, the implementation of a "frequent feedback" process was well-received by teachers and admins alike. The principals aim to deliver frequent feedback suggesting research-based methods, which enable teachers to reach their students more effectively—meeting them where they are. Ms. La Londe recommends that "constant feedback and instructional coaching are critical to growth . . . [and] if principals are doing the right thing it's almost impossible not to improve student outcomes."
While the frequency of check-ins helps leaders keep their fingers on the pulse, La Londe advocates "our teachers want—and need—immediate, authentic feedback. They don't even want to wait a day for it. TeachBoost makes this happen—there's always an ongoing conversation."
This quick-moving and personalized style of feedback delivers teachers the tools and resources they need to support their students' and their own growth.
Whether it's focusing on the frequency of observations, the type of feedback given, the content of your framework, the direction of next steps, or something else—finding what works in your district culture will set you on the path to success. Trialling new methods and, importantly, asking teachers what they need to grow ensures that your whole team is on this journey together.
Investing in Growth
Vanessa Garza remembers creating a culture invested in growth among the leaders at Partnership for LA Schools: "we were really purposeful about always driving teacher evaluation from the context of teacher growth and development." To address this, the name of the program itself was chosen to reflect their vision: "Teacher Growth and Development Cycles."
"Through this lens, the school leaders understood evaluation in the context of instructional leadership," says Ms. Garza. "If you treat it like you're looking to celebrate teachers' strengths and support their growth areas, that's a win-win for everyone."
Avoiding teacher trepidation when it comes to evaluations is also critical at Estacada. There, the principals' feedback focuses on offering resources for teachers to constantly improve their practice. "Observations are not punitive, they emphasize ongoing growth," reports Ms. La Londe.
Building Up and Out
Once their program was up and running, Garza and her team found themselves asking: what's next? How do we now strengthen our instructional leadership practices? Together with the principal leadership, Ms. Garza did this by looking beyond the evaluative element of the program and building in more meaningful, non-required informals and peer observations. This helped normalize classroom visitations for their teachers and increased the number of touchpoints throughout the year, maximizing opportunities for constructive feedback.
Further reflections on scaffolding formal and informal observation protocols are offered by the leadership of Montevideo Public Schools in one of our past webinars. Here, the leaders share their experiences of developing their program from the ground up, continually re-assessing it and building in strategies to facilitate further instructional growth.
What's Up Ahead
It's important to remember that change doesn't happen overnight, it takes time. In the next post we'll take a deeper look into planning for slow change by taking small steps and not biting off more than one can chew at once.
If you've implemented new processes this year we'd love to hear how you planned for the changes and what the action steps looked like—share here!