Measuring Student Growth Means More Than Measuring Student Growth: Teacher Voice Helping Administrators Better Understand a Teacher’s Role.

Measuring Student Growth Means More Than Measuring Student Growth: Teacher Voice Helping Administrators Better Understand a Teacher’s Role.

In most states across the country, work is underway to incorporate student growth measures into a teacher’s evaluation. In concept, it’s hard to argue that this shouldn’t happen. In application, it’s understandably complicated and, many times, controversial. To bring a different light to this work, I’d like to turn our collective attention to an important, but possibly unintended, positive outcome from the effort. It spotlights the value and necessity of teacher voice. It also shows that teacher voice can take many forms and have many functions. Teacher voice is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Hope Street Group and what we strive to deliver though our National Teacher Fellows Program. The best way to illuminate this is by example, so I’ll pick on a state near and dear to my heart, the First State: Delaware.

A little background to set the table will help the example shine more brightly. In Delaware, teachers across all subjects (not just non-tested grades) have met multiple times by their respective subject areas as convened by the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE). At those meetings, teachers either create or vet methods by which they can be evaluated regarding student growth. It’s easier to wrap your head around how a teacher may provide a pre-test at or near the beginning of the school year to capture data on where each student is related to the subject. Then it’s similarly easy to imagine the delivery of a post-test at or towards the end of the school year to measure how far those students have progressed as measured against their respective pre-test scores. As always, the devil is in the detail, and I acknowledge that. My spotlight today, though, is not on the detail devil, but on the empowerment tool that is a byproduct of some of this work.

I’ll move us outside of the core four subject examples (social studies, science, math, English/language arts) to the specific example which is at the heart of my point today: guidance counselors.

If you’re familiar with guidance counselors, then you should know that—as a profession—their respective responsibilities in a school are often less guidance-counseling for students and more “schedule builder,” “extra administrative arm provider,” “professional development developer,” etc. These are needed and necessary functions in a school, but likely not the roles that guidance counselors envisioned when choosing the profession.

In Delaware, the work on student growth measure for guidance counselors is shepherded by DDOE’s Dennis Rozumalski. He consistently champions the issue of tapping our guidance counselors for their respective highest use for kids in schools. He and the guidance counselor professionals with whom he undertook this work took this as the opportunity to craft student learning objectives/growth goals (SLOs) that are framed around what guidance counselors should do for kids in schools. These SLOs were developed collaboratively and before employed as part of the evaluation (to be clear, there are more pieces of the evaluation than the SLOs), a professional conversation must occur between the guidance counselor and the administrator to approve the SLOs.

This is where the light of this new tool is most bright; the administrator has a new/renewed opportunity to converse (and learn) from the professional dialogue with the guidance counselor. It’s not only about what the administrator needs from the adult, but what the guidance counselor’s profession needs to provide to the students. It’s not about opinion from the guidance counselor, but about professional facts and professional responsibilities which align to the role and against which the guidance counselor will be evaluated. This may have occurred in some schools prior to this new effort, but until it occurs in all schools we should look at the student growth measure work as having a byproduct opportunity such as shared above, rather than a bureaucratic burden. Kudos to Dennis and his Delaware guidance counselor colleagues for brightening the light of teacher voice work.

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