November 1, 2012 by

Getting Beyond the Scoreboard with Teacher Evaluation

This guest blog post is part of a series from Educational Leadership authors. This month’s post comes from Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, whose article, “Beyond the Scoreboard,” appears in the November 2012 issue.

In my article in this month’s edition of Educational Leadership, I argue that we need to get “beyond the scoreboard” when it comes to evaluating teachers–to shift from a once-a-year evaluation model to a coaching model. The coaching model demands shorter, more frequent observations and a focus on tracking growth over time. Yet it also requires leaders to pick the right target, identifying those specific, concrete and “bite-sized” actions that will bring a teacher to the next level.

Before we can make this change, we must answer a key question: what does a bite-sized change look like? Or, more directly, just what is the difference between the feedback from a once-a-year evaluation rubric and the feedback from leaders who are best at building teaching talent? To find out, I spoke with one of our top leaders at Uncommon Schools, Julie Jackson, about some of the advice she has given teachers facing common teaching challenges. She described the kind of action steps she used to give before she started getting more precise and targeted—and what better action steps would look like. Here are two of her examples:

Scenario 1–Problem: Students are talking while the teacher is talking.

  • Poor Action Step: “Reduce student talking when you’re speaking.”
  • Better Action Step: “Don’t talk over the students. Stop and make eye contact with the student who is talking. Throughout the lesson, walk with purpose toward specific students who may have a hard time staying on task.”

Scenario 2–Problem: You have a student in your guided reading group who always jumps in to respond to every question and dominates the conversation.

  • Poor Action Step: “Don’t let students jump into the conversation.”
  • Better Action Step: “Give think time and use cold calls to call on students who haven’t yet raised their hands. Have the eager student write his or her response on a white board.”

Once great leaders combine their own experience and skills with a focus on keeping it “bite-sized,” the impact on teacher confidence and skill is nothing short of remarkable. Most important, though, these changes work–creating real, fast, and permanent improvements in the way our students learn.

What “bite-sized” changes have you seen teachers make that have most improved their practice? Are there areas where a “bite-sized” focus wouldn’t work out?


Paul Bambrick-Santoyo is managing director of Uncommon Schools-North Star in Newark, New Jersey, and the author of Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools.