Friday, August 27, 2010

Why You Should Be Interested In The New Teacher Evaluation Process

An Opinion Piece by Dr. Robin Boltz, NCSLMA Secretary

Last year my district was abuzz about the new teacher evaluation process from DPI. There was extensive professional development on the instrument and an equal amount of uncertainty. When the doors opened this year, the uncertainty was still there. For some of us in districts where library positions are being cut, welcome to our world!

Okay--be honest: raise your hand if you have read (or browsed through) the new teacher evaluation process handbook from DPI. Just how familiar are you with the new criteria that administrators will use to gauge the efficacy of classroom instruction? Yes, I know the PDF is over fifty pages long and we’re all busy. But I’m also of the opinion that DPI has handed those of us in the library a present that should have been delivered with virtual wrapping paper and bow.

For those of you not familiar with the new standards, here are the five main strands (if you are familiar, bear with me for the next couple of paragraphs): 1) Teachers demonstrate leadership; 2) Teachers establish a respectful environment for a diverse population of students; 3) Teachers know the content they teach; 4) Teachers facilitate learning for their students; 5) Teachers reflect on their practice. If you are National Board Certified, or have looked into Board certification, then you’ve been down this road before.

The following quotes directly from the teacher evaluation handbook: “According to the North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards Commission, the different demands on 21st century education dictate new roles for teachers in their classrooms and schools. The following define what teachers need to know and do to teach students in the 21st century.

1) Leadership among the staff and with the administration is shared in order to bring consensus and common, shared ownership of the vision and purpose of the work of the school. Teachers are valued for the contributions they make to their classrooms and the school.

2) Teachers make the content they teach engaging, relevant, and meaningful to students’ lives.

3) Teachers can no longer cover material; they, along with their students, uncover solutions. They teach existing core content that is revised to include skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and information and communications technology literacy.

4) In their classrooms, teachers facilitate instruction encouraging all student to use 21st century skills so they discover how to learn, innovate, collaborate, and communicate their ideas.

5) Subjects and related projects are integrated among disciplines and involve relationships with the home and community.

6) Teachers are reflective about their practice and include assessments that are authentic and structured and demonstrate student understanding.

7) Teachers demonstrate the value of lifelong learning and encourage their students to learn and grow.”

Let’s pick out some core concepts here: leadership, relevance, critical thinking, problem solving, information and communications technology literacy, innovate, collaborate, communicate, reflection, authentic assessment, lifelong learning. Is it just me or does this language seem remarkably similar to IMPACT and our own MCPAI? My somewhat belabored point here is that many of the skills that teachers are being asked to embrace and demonstrate, and those they will now be critically evaluated on, are those that we are already doing and facilitating.

For those of us in districts where library positions are being cut, the new teacher evaluation is a marvelous advocacy tool. It’s our chance to stand up and say, “ As the nature of information and the tools for its retrieval change, so the position of the librarian has also changed. We are no longer ‘keepers of the books.’ Our role is as positive change agent for 21st century information literacy skills.” In other words, to stand up and say, “This is why you need us now more than ever!”

Kelly Brannock, our NCSLMA President and I will be presenting a session on this topic at the upcoming conference in November. It’s tentatively titled either“10 Reasons Why You Should Be Interested In The New Teacher Process” or “Ways to Leverage the New Teacher Evaluation Instrument to Advocate for Your Library.” If you are interested in the topic, please join us. If you are already doing this, please come to share your specifics with others; we’re planning a very collaborative and interactive session!

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