CORTES_HEAD_MOBILE

No teacher left behind

Building the capacity of administrators to support growth and development through evaluation

By Martha V. Cortes, Jonathan Lesser, Jolene Chavira, Nancy Concha and Jefferey White | September | October 2019
As research has demonstrated that effective teachers are the most important school-based factor contributing to student achievement, education reform efforts in the past decade have focused on revamping evaluation systems to better measure a teacher’s impact on student outcomes (Doyle & Han, 2012; Hull, 2013). In the school year 2013-14, the Los Angeles Unified School District enhanced the evaluation system utilized for its more than 24,000 K-12 teachers. This evaluation process, Educator Development and Support: Teachers, now includes observations, professional goal setting and reflection activities, as well as conferencing opportunities with the evaluating administrator. While the focus for many districts may be on the teacher as the new evaluations are implemented, LAUSD is investing in building the capacity of administrators to effectively use the evaluation system to support the continuous growth and development of all its teaching staff.  The Professional Learning and Leadership Development branch of the district’s Human Resources Division is leading the implementation of key investments in leadership development, certification, calibration, and continuous professional development to build the capacity of administrators to collect objective evidence of practice, provide actionable feedback, and support the growth and development of LAUSD teachers through the EDST process.  Investments made by LAUSD to build administrators’ capacity To best create systems and structures that collectively contribute to improved teacher effectiveness, LAUSD invests in the leadership development of aspiring and new school leaders. These leaders are invited to participate in year-long leadership development programs grounded in the district’s School Leadership Framework. The framework provides a common definition of effective school leadership practice and actions. As part of the leadership development programs, participants partake in sessions to engage in reflection, discussions and exercises to build their leadership practices. Specifically, aspiring and new school leaders are being prepared to:
  • Develop systems to schedule and routinely conduct classroom observations.
  • Collect objective evidence of teaching practice aligned to the district’s Teaching and Learning Framework–a tool that provides a common definition of effective teaching and learning practices.
  • Hold professional conversations with teachers to provide frequent and actionable feedback based on evidence aligned to the TLF. 
  • Analyze school-level data from observations and goal-setting activities to prepare and target professional development based on staff need and interest. 
In addition to these sessions, new principals receive approximately 30 hours of job-embedded support through school site visits, calls, and professional development. This coaching support provides intensive and individualized opportunities for school site administrators to reflect and receive guidance on the systems they have set up for supporting teachers. 
Since 2016, almost 1,000 participants have successfully completed these leadership development programs. As the district continues to focus on building the leadership skills of aspiring and new school leaders, a cadre of administrators will be able to better support the growth and development of teachers through feedback.  Observer certification  Improving teaching practice within LAUSD is contingent on the ability of school site administrators to provide teachers with accurate and actionable feedback. To strengthen administrators’ abilities in collecting objective evidence of teaching practice and utilizing it during evaluation, LAUSD invests in a five-day observer certification training. More than 2,300 of LAUSD administrators responsible for evaluating and supporting teachers have successfully completed observer certification training. As part of the observer certification training, participants deepen their knowledge of the TLF, practice collecting, aligning, and rating objective evidence of teaching practice, and discuss strategies for providing feedback to teachers. Participants also learn how to support growth and development through effective coaching by: 
  • Preparing for a coaching conversation: setting goals for an upcoming conversation to ensure focus and preparing questions aligned to the goals to guide the teacher’s reflection. 
  • Conducting a coaching conversation: establishing trust and rapport; demonstrating follow-through, confidentiality and commitment; using active listening strategies. 
  • Closing a coaching conversation: providing specific, evidence-based feedback to help teachers advance their own their learning; prioritizing timely action items that are relevant to a teacher’s practice and goals. 
Through this training, the district is creating common expectations for administrators and developing their skills to provide feedback based on evidence aligned to a district-wide tool, the TLF.

Improving teaching practice within LAUSD is contingent on the ability of school site administrators to provide teachers with accurate and actionable feedback.
Calibration  While rigorous, observer certification training is a stand-alone, one-time professional development opportunity. Once in the field, administrators without ongoing support may begin to exhibit certain behaviors that inhibit their ability to accurately differentiate between levels of practice. Rater drift, or the gradual degradation of a rater’s scoring accuracy over time, may occur. Shifts in accuracy can ultimately impact the quality of feedback administrators provide to their teachers. Beginning in the summer of 2015, PLLD staff have invited LAUSD administrators to participate in an annual calibration event and complete an accuracy assessment. As part of calibration, participants are better able to detect rating errors of teaching practice that occur over time, understand their own accuracy in rating teaching practice, and inspire teachers’ confidence in the evaluation process (Joe, J., Kosa, J., Tierney, J., Tocci, n.d.). During the calibration process, administrators watch a video of a classroom lesson, align evidence from the observed lesson to the TLF, and assign ratings of practice for the lesson observation. Once they receive their results, administrators compare their submitted ratings and evidence with that of the “master score and evidence.” Participants are encouraged to use the “master score and evidence” to reflect on their rating practice and identify reasons for why their ratings may differ. Through these reflective activities, administrators can refine their accuracy in rating teaching practice based on evidence collected during a classroom observation.  At the end of the summer, PLLD staff members create professional development opportunities to improve administrators’ understanding and skills in evidence collection and accuracy. To further ensure ongoing quality of feedback to teachers, PLLD provides resources to and communicates with the supervisors of school leaders to encourage them to host professional development sessions to review evidence collection, alignment, and ratings of practice using the TLF, as well as how to coach school leaders on their evidence collection during visits. Continuous support To continue refining administrators’ practices throughout the year, LAUSD invests in various growth and development opportunities. Through evaluation and targeted professional development and resources, LAUSD is addressing any remaining gaps in practice. The district’s administrator evaluation process, Educator Development and Support: School Leaders, places an explicit focus on administrators’ abilities to demonstrate knowledge and skill in collecting objective evidence of practice, providing actionable feedback, and supporting the growth and development of all teachers. The district’s SLF provides leaders and their supervisors with detailed descriptions of effective practice, as well as numerous examples of artifacts. Participation in EDSSL ensures that new and experienced school leaders receive key feedback and guidance from their supervisor on how to best support the growth and development of their teaching staff. In addition to the supports offered through EDSSL, PLLD and the LAUSD administrator union, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, collaborate in developing high-quality professional development. For example, in this past year, various workshops and trainings have been provided to school leaders on how to improve teaching practice through coaching and equitable leadership practices. Resources, such as handbooks and protocols, are also available for administrators to support all the steps of the EDST process. There are resources to support school leaders at the beginning of the year to plan and prepare for the upcoming school year, to conduct classroom observations, and to provide coaching and feedback based on evidence collected throughout the year.  Together, the evaluation process and key professional development resources build an administrator’s toolkit to provide evidence-based, actionable feedback to teachers. Early outcomes LAUSD is building the capacity of administrators to collect objective evidence of practice, provide actionable feedback, and support the growth and development of new and experienced teachers. To better understand how these investments are impacting administrator and teacher practice, district staff are collecting data via the evaluation process.  Throughout the EDST process, administrators are encouraged to utilize the knowledge and skills learned to improve their interactions with teachers. In a survey conducted by PLLD in the school year of 2017-18 with teachers who were evaluated that school year, 84 percent of teachers agreed that their evaluator had the knowledge and skills to accurately assess their performance. In addition, 86 percent of teachers agreed that the evidence collected during their evaluation was objective. Therefore, it is not surprising that most teachers report that the number and quality of instruction-focused interactions with their administrator has increased during their evaluation year.  Providing teachers with accurate and actionable feedback during these increased interactions is critical for improving teaching and learning within LAUSD. Initial survey and formative evaluation results do indicate growth in teaching practice during the evaluation year. Teachers who were evaluated in the 2017-18 school year report that by participating in EDST they increased their focus on planning and preparation, creating a positive classroom environment, differentiating instruction, and assessing effectiveness of their lessons and student learning. Additional analyses of formative classroom observation ratings show that teachers who are evaluated in consecutive years see growth in key areas. To better understand the relationship between teacher perception and classroom observation ratings, PLLD is conducting further research to determine how frequency and accuracy of feedback, as well as credibility of the administrator, improve teacher growth and development. These findings will be utilized to continue refining the district’s professional development and leadership development programs. LAUSD’s key investments in building the capacity of administrators to support the growth and development of its new and experienced teachers through feedback have begun to provide exciting early results. While it is understood that teachers are the most important school-based factor contributing to student achievement, administrators continue to be a key lever for improvements. As districts across California redesign and refine their evaluation processes, investing in their aspiring, new, and experienced administrators will be crucial to ensuring that all teachers are successful in serving students. For more information about these investments, please visit the PLLD website at http://achieve.lausd.net/plld, call the PLLD branch at (213) 241-3444, or email plld@lausd.net.  Resources Doyle, D., & Han, J. G. (2012). “Measuring Teacher Effectiveness: A Look ‘Under the Hood’ of Teacher Evaluation in 10 Sites.” New York, NY: 50CAN; New Haven, CT: ConnCAN; Chapel Hill, NC: and Public Impact.  Hull, J. (2013). “Trends in Teacher Evaluation: How States are Measuring Teacher Performance.” Center for Public Education.  Joe, J., Kosa, J., Tierney, J., Tocci, C. (n.d.). Educational Testing Service. “Observer Calibration: A Tool for Maintaining Accurate and Reliable Classroom Observations.” San Francisco, CA: Teachscape. Online.  Los Angeles Unified School District Teaching and Learning Framework 

Martha V. Cortes, Jonathan Lesser, Jolene Chavira, Nancy Concha, Jefferey White work in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

© 2019 Association of California School Administrators