A number of readers have requested that I better explain the warning / reminder / lesson shared by The Big Easy in the May 7, 2013 post, “Don’t Take Short Cuts.” 

First, let’s refresh our memories.


When PowerWalks observations (or any lesser, FORMATIVE observation system results) are tied to teacher evaluations, objectivity is lost and any coaching based on the data is rendered useless.

So what does it mean?

It means this.  Except in the most extreme instances (a teacher mistreating a student or teaching horrifically wrong) you cannot judge the quality of teacher in a single, 3 to 5 minute walk-thru.  One walk-thru is a random wisp of time. 

However, if I have a chain of 15 to 20 short walk-thru’s, I can develop a trend line and I can coach and support a teacher based on some assumptions that I make based on that trend line.  But it is still a trend line. This is formative assessment and practice.

For formative assessment, I need to observe a teacher for a longer sample of time (hence the need for 15 – 20 short observations), so I have a chance to see the teacher make a variety of instructional decisions in the dynamic environment that is the classroom.

It needs to be clear to teachers why you are in the classroom and how the information will be used.  A formative observation is for coaching and improvement. A summative observation is to evaluate for employment purposes.  If a teacher works in a healthy formative environment, the summative observations are never a significant concern.

Now as I pointed out at the beginning of this post, a 3-minute observation is a random wisp of time. A bad one I can recover from and it will not directly impact my summative evaluation.  That is unless my campus administrators are engaged the leadership malpractice of blending the 3-minute observations into the summative data set.  Now every 3-minute observation impacts my career and every time someone walks into my room, it is a potential game changer.

The result of this all to common leadership malpractice?  No trust and paranoid teachers that refuse to do anything new, because the risk of short-term failure is never worth the potential reward.   Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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