How to Get Highly Effective Ratings by Utilizing 21st Century Skills

In the State of New Jersey we have a new teacher evaluation system.  LEA or local school districts were given the choice of using any one of the four teacher evaluation models Danielson, Marzano, McREL, or Stronge.  These are all research based instructional frameworks that are linked with a 4 point evaluation rubric consisting of highly effective, effective, partially effective, or ineffective.  Also, the new models include a summative evaluation tool.  The Marzano and Danielson frameworks consist of four different domains.  The McREL and Stronge framework consist of 5 to 7 standards.  Each tool has a web based management system in which the teacher and evaluator can upload evidence and utilize a digital signature feature.

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Effective vs. Highly Effective

It was challenging to transition from a system relied on written qualitative anecdotal observation to this new system with the different ratings.  One thing that has been an essential question for many is what is the difference between a 3 and 4?  Or how to I go from being effective to highly effective.  Effective is the world that most of us live in as education professionals.  Highly effective is a place that we should aspire to.  I am about to leave my role as a classroom teacher but I can honestly say that most of my lessons were really good but there were moments/lessons once or twice every week where I felt that I really raised the bar for my students.  Teaching is part art and part science and it is nice when you have a lesson where both of these elements balance one another in Yin-Yang fashion.  It was great to have these highly effective lessons/moments regardless of whether I was being informally or formally evaluated.

Technology is the Fastest Road to Highly Effective

I realize that this heading may stir up some controversy.  Can a teacher receive a rating of highly effective without using any technology?  Certainly.  However, part of my role in the past few has as a teacher coach and professional development trainer with our 1 to 1 iPad initiative.  I used to take technology instructional strategies that I had used in the classroom and received highly effective on and turnkey theses strategies in my professional development trainings.  This was effective but there was a better way.  In the past year, I just exposed the adult learners to as many strategies as possible that involved the use of technology and infusion of 21st century skills into their lessons.  After I presenting a tech tool we would discuss which Design Questions and Elements it related to within our Marzano framework.  For instance, when I presented Kahoot we talked about how it was a great way to address Design Question 5 Engaging Students.  When we learned about QR Codes I explained that this was a great way to introduce new material so this relates to Design Question 2 Helping Students Interact with New Knowledge.

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“I Got Innovating!”

Some of my happiest moments as a professional development trainer happened when teachers that I had worked with approached me and told me that they had implemented some of the 21st skills and strategies from our iPad professional development sessions and received the highest rating.  It made me happy because not only were the teachers being recognized for their work as professionals by the administrative team, but also the students in those classes had been exposed to some highly engaging lessons.

Call to Action

I challenge everyone reading this whether you are an administrator, teacher coach, or teacher to keep an open mind in 2015 – be a life-long-learner and remember that the kids are the bottom line.  We try to constantly raise the bar not for the ego boost of a “4” rating but for the satisfaction knowing that we vastly improved the lives of the young people in our care by embracing best practice and innovation in our school culture.

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