Using PLC Organization to Align CCSS, Instructional Frameworks, and Teacher Evaluation
Recently, a frustrated teacher sat with me and shared her overwhelming feelings of inadequacy. Her school district had recently adopted an instructional framework for teaching and modified the teacher evaluation system. She had just been at a training focused on how to implement the new evaluation tool. She wondered, “How am I going to focus on teaching my students to the best of my ability while simultaneously completing the work necessary for the new evaluation system?” Considering that this teacher had been in the classroom for 15 years, I trusted that her feelings were based on real, valid concerns.
As this teacher’s school coach, it was my job to help her identify resources that could help her succeed on her evaluation as well as succeed at her job. After asking several questions, I discovered what I so often find when talking with teachers: she cared deeply for her students and wanted to do everything she could to help them achieve. This was not unusual in my work with teachers, but it was reassuring that the frustration had not developed to the point of hopelessness.
Together, we began working on an action plan to guide her, as she focused both on the evaluation model’s requirements and meeting the needs of her learners. First, we agreed that her grade-level team would be needed in order for her to succeed. This became an excellent example of how the PLC definition of collaborative teams looked in action—a group of people working interdependently to achieve a common goal. For this teacher to succeed, all of the teachers on her team needed to succeed. Second, we gathered the team and began to look carefully at the requirements. We looked at the instructional framework, evaluation tool, and Common Core State Standards to understand what they said and what it might mean to her personally and for them as a team. Third, we used the tool to answer some critical questions: What did the team need to do to meet the evaluation requirements? What areas did they their strengths? In what areas would they like to grow? How did they document student growth in their classrooms? The team developed answers that would help each member meet the evaluation standards and provide every student with success. It was an excellent exercise in how to best meet the needs of the students. This in turn gave each teacher the evidence needed for the evaluation.
The team began to understand how all that was required of them interconnected. They made decisions based on the four PLC questions, which organized the work before them. They made decisions on critical knowledge and skills that students needed based on data and the CCSS. They worked on how to best assess the content based on critical feedback and evidence that was important to both the students and the teachers. The conversation about what intentional instructional strategies would best meet the needs of the students came from the adopted instructional framework. All of this resulted in the teachers self-reflecting on what they already knew and where they needed to grow. Goals were set, and a plan was developed for implementation. Timelines were created to gather evidence of what the students were doing and how the teachers were growing.
With the collaborative team working with her, doing the same work and encouraging each other along the way, this teacher took a deep breath and was ready to continue. As I watched the team implement their plan, I knew that the frustration had been lessened. Personal growth plans were easily completed, celebrations noted along the way, and the evaluation process became a tool for them to use rather than just one more thing to do.