March 2, 2023

Secretary of Education: “If Teacher Evaluation Feels Like a ‘Gotcha’ System, it Won’t Work”

On April 5, Secretary of Education John King spoke at the National Association of State Boards of Education Legislative Conference (NASBE) 2016.

At this meeting of education and legislative leaders, King shared a number of encouraging thoughts on a topic that is certainly on the minds of district leaders and educators across the U.S: the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The Secretary expressed his hope that educational leaders will see ESSA as an opportunity for states to build on high standards and to advance equity and excellence.

In moving towards every K-12 educator’s shared goal of ensuring that students who earn a high school diploma are truly prepared for college and careers, the Secretary suggested that one of the practical steps state educational leaders can take is to revisit their teacher evaluation process.

King called for a return to “first principles” when it comes to teacher evaluation, adding that educators must be engaged in any teacher evaluation conversations from the get-go.

His remarks align well with what we’re trying to do to support schools and districts here at Insight ADVANCE. An evaluation shouldn’t be about just getting it done, though. It should be about getting something out of it.

That is why we are set on helping districts and schools support teachers and strengthen skills – and why you’ll hear all of us talking about this idea of growth vs. “gotcha” so much. Like Secretary King, I see the passage of ESSA as an opportunity for educational leaders.

There are so many opportunities for growth in teacher observations and evaluations, once the “gotcha” is gone.

Here are just three things that can happen:

  1. Observations spark open and honest communication between instructional leaders and teachers – feedback is applied directly to practice.
  2. Data is used to accurately gauge teachers’ current abilities and track growth over time.
  3. Professional development is targeted, relevant and actionable.

Now is the time to move away from teacher evaluations as mere acts of compliance and toward short-term and long-term growth in teacher practice. Evaluations based on observation should spark open and honest communication between instructional leaders and teachers.

When the “gotcha” is taken out of the equation, teachers can immediately apply constructive feedback to the classroom. This sets up a more productive cycle that gives districts the best possible chance to live up to the name of the recent legislation and see to it that every student succeeds. Ultimately, time will tell if ESSA is the game changer many had hoped.

We invite you to learn one way districts are focusing on “growth vs gotcha” — with the use of video to grow educators’ instructional practice.


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