Making the Grade with Teacher Evaluation

There’s no doubt that educational change has been at the forefront of most teachers’ conversations – from new curricula, to the Common Core, to the new standardized tests (PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment). Added to this is another dimension – teacher evaluation. Though different evaluations exist across the state of New Jersey, Charlotte Danielson’s Framework is highly popular among many school districts.

This week, let’s take a closer look at Domain 1 of the Danielson model – teacher planning and preparation – to determine some simple ways you can not only better yourself but also prepare yourself to be evaluated. Though these suggestions do not address every component within the domain, the ideas do speak to: Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy, Knowledge of Students, and Designing Coherent Lessons. Furthermore, the suggestions are tailored to activities, resources, and ideas that are apropos for the beginning weeks of the school year:

• Learning is Fun!

Have you ever wanted to delve into a particular aspect of your subject matter – but you never seem to find the time? Or maybe you’ve had an interest in getting that Master’s degree – but you’ve talked about it more than taken action? September is the perfect time to register for a course, sign up for a lecture, or simply sign up for a professional development workshop within your district. And by starting now, you’ll automatically make that time commitment part of your daily routine… rather than trying to “fit it in” later in the year, when you’ve already filled your schedule with other commitments and activities.

• Getting to Know You…

How well do you know your students? It’s early in the year, so most likely you are still just getting to know them…but don’t dismiss the icebreakers and interest inventories you planned for those early days and weeks of school! More than a way to get students acclimated to the school, your class, and their classmates, you can glean important information about students’ background, interests, strengths, and weaknesses, and this information could better inform your instructional planning.

Have a ton of sports fans? You may decide to incorporate more nonfiction reading that focuses on athletics to capture their interest. Got a group who claims they dislike reading? You can be sensitive to that and spend extra time connecting those students with page-turners that change their minds. Teaching a class of students who admittedly experience math anxiety? You can plan lessons that include plenty of scaffolding to support them until they have the confidence to become more independent.

• Map it Out…

Perhaps your district has made changes to the curriculum this summer, and now you’ve been presented and in-serviced on the updates… and then school began the following day! Obviously, this doesn’t give you a lot of time to adjust, but now is the time for you to create a personal scope and sequence.

Look at your units, topics, themes, etc. and determine how many days or weeks you’ll spend on each. Be sure to account for your daily routines as you plan, continue to keep your standards in mind, and of course be sure to include what you’ve learned about your students so far as you plan. Flexibility is needed, too, since student performance may dictate that you need to spend more – or less – time on certain concepts.

Knowing where you are going will make weekly plans easier, and when it comes to back to school night, you’ll be in a position to clearly articulate what parents and students can expect this school year. (Note: if your district has already created a scope and sequence chart, you may only need to adjust according to your students’ needs and abilities).

Even if your district doesn’t use the Danielson model, planning and preparation are certainly key elements for you to consider on any evaluation instrument. And even though the names of each Danielson component may differ from your district’s model, thoughtful planning, getting to know your students, and having a solid handle on your subject matter are definitely timeless and applicable to any teacher, any classroom, and any subject and grade.

What do you do at the beginning of the year to get to know your students better? Improve your content knowledge? Plan you lessons? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section!


Julie Lyons