Teacher Evaluations - A Lesson from Preschool

Much has been written about evaluating teachers in American schools. Discussions are frequently controversial. Is "value added" the best measure of effectiveness? Should we look at test scores only? What about posting teacher ratings for public viewing?

Perhaps methods used in quality early childhood education programs offer guidance for all grades and a chance to refocus efforts on the teaching practices that have the greatest impact on well-rounded student achievement, critical thinking skills and social-emotional development. A recent Los Angeles Times op-ed, Pushing Past Mediocrity in the Classroom, highlighted the importance of evaluating teacher-child interactions. And the article noted that evaluation isn't the end goal - building teachers' skills so that they can do better has to follow. We're lucky to have a mentor teacher providing that all-important "feedback loop" so that teachers can learn from challenges and continually improve. (Many thanks to the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis and United Way of Greater St. Louis for funding our mentor teacher position!)

At SouthSide we evaluate teachers through different lenses, including observation of teacher-child interactions. Because they all have great respect for children, patience, high expectations and a sense of humor, it's no surprise that our teachers perform extremely well in these evaluations.

We also look at children's progress using assessment data, and we can look at classroom progress for each teaching team. The key word in looking at preschool data is progress. Every child begins his or her journey at SouthSide from a different place, and we will help them grow, learn and improve their skills from their own particular starting block. 

We also invite feedback from our families through our "Praise, Comments and Concerns" comment box in our lobby and through more structured surveys during the year. Parents are our partners in the work we do and their input is more than welcome - it's essential to help us improve our program.

Teacher evaluation without feedback and support does not help teachers get better - and doesn't improve student achievement. That's where Patty, our mentor teacher, comes in. Using video along with coaching, observation and modeling, by facilitating peer support groups and giving topic-specific professional development, she is building our teachers' skills, confidence and effectiveness. And ultimately, that helps children meet developmental and social goals and builds their foundation for success. 

Teachers' voices are not often heard in the debates over quality and effectiveness. We will give our incredibly hard-working and dedicated SouthSide teachers a chance to talk via video in this blog from time to time. Here's Mr. Phil, one of our Room 4 teachers, talking about the importance of his work and one of the reasons that it is so worthwhile. 

Blog, NewsCleo Fisher