Using Rubrics to Evaluate Educators

I live and work in Wisconsin. That means that, through a waiver for No Child Left Behind, I along with every other public educator will soon be assessed using a twenty-three point rubric. It will be on a scale of one to four, with one being “ineffective” and a four qualifying as “highly effective”.

Here is a sample of what the rubric looks like (draft only; it can also be found at Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s website).

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What’s Good About It

Clear Expectations
No longer can a teacher or administrator’s livelihood depend solely on a supervisor’s judgment. In fact, this rubric is but one piece of a more comprehensive evaluation system. With multiple measures, one would assume that the rating a teacher or administrator receives should be more valid.

Time to Try and Offer Feedback
My district is part of a pilot for the Educator Effectiveness Plan. I am one of three principals using this new system on a trial basis only. Our team was given three days of intensive training to help us use this tool with greater reliability. In addition, the state team that developed this is asking us, the practitioners, to provide feedback about how effective this tool is for evaluations.

What Needs to Improve

The Four Point Rubric
When I taught 5th and 6th grade, I often used the web tool Rubistar to develop differentiated levels of achievement for various activities. The students and I would develop these together with a computer connected to the television screen (this is pre-SMART board era). What I remember finding most frustrating is trying to wordsmith the descriptors. For example, what is the difference between “differentiates” and “develops” when describing staff development offerings? I don’t know either, but both of these qualifiers are used in this new rubric within the same element.

The Levels of Effectiveness
This might be the area that needs the most attention. Why do we need four levels of effectiveness? Maybe I am a little too black and white on this issue, but I feel like I am either doing my job or I am not. For example, if I am holding others accountable in the area of professionalism, then I am meeting expectations. If I have failed to do this, then I am not meeting expectations. Anywhere in between should be handled with a candid conversation between the supervisor and the employee. I fear that breaking down every aspect of what a teacher or administrator does takes the thinking and doing out of our positions and attempts to simplify our jobs to a series of steps or processes. This profession is just not that simple.

Next Steps
I plan to continue to keep an open mind about this new system and hope I do not come across negatively. Many smart and caring professionals put a lot of time into this plan. As well, they are giving us the opportunity to share our thoughts on how to make it even better. I just hope they listen.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

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