Looking holistically at educator development
My colleagues in other states often marvel at Iowa’s strengths-based approach to improving teaching and learning. The development of the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) system focuses on building capacity within our education system by tapping teachers to take on clearly defined leadership roles. Rigorous local selection processes and a statewide system of training and support for teacher leaders ensure they are up to the challenge.
Iowa has invested considerable time and resources scaling up TLC over the past three years. Over this same time period, the Council on Educator Development has led a complementary effort to look holistically at how Iowa educators are evaluated and supported. The genesis of the Council, like TLC, was House File 215, the bipartisan education reform legislation signed into law by Governor Branstad in 2013.
Yesterday, the Council released its final report. I encourage all educators to read it. The report reflects countless hours of work by Council members and feedback from hundreds of Iowa teachers and administrators.
In the report, the Council defines some general principles that Iowa’s educator development system must do, which include:
- Using common vocabulary and tools that define and describe the best practices for teaching and leadership.
- Utilizing multiple measures that provide meaningful feedback and closely connect the evaluation process to ongoing professional development.
- Differentiating between roles to address the needs of all educators, including teachers, teacher leaders, counselors, nurses, athletic coaches, and administrators.
- Supporting statewide initiatives, such as teacher leadership.
In addition, the report highlights three keys to effective implementation of the recommendations:
- Implementing the recommendation consistently over time and across all school districts.
- Monitoring at the local level to ensure the system is implemented effectively.
- Supporting the system with adequate resources, including the time districts will need to implement the system.
Some of the Council’s recommendations focus on improving implementation of the existing system, such as:
- Supporting collaborative and reflective practices that include constructive feedback.
- Utilizing multiple measures, including but not limited to, an array of indicators of student learning outcomes.
- Using a balanced evaluation system that includes annual accountability in the form of the individual Professional Development Plan (IPDP) and a comprehensive three-year review for all teachers.
- Using the Iowa Teaching Standards (ITS) and Iowa Standards for School Leaders (ISSL) and refining them over time.
In addition, the Council also recommended changes to the current system, including:
- Modifying the current evaluator approval system by differentiating training of evaluators based on the type of educator being evaluated and the experience level of the evaluator.
- Aligning the requirements of administrator evaluations with the requirements of teacher evaluation, including an Individual Professional Development Plan (IPDP) and a comprehensive three-year review.
- Implementing learning progressions, in each school district, aligned to the Iowa Teaching Standards (ITS) and Iowa Standards for School Leaders (ISSL). Learning progressions describe the increasing complexity of educator practice for each teaching and leadership standard so that educators can see what increasingly effective practice looks like.
I am grateful to each of the Council members for the time and effort they poured into the development of this report. I also look forward to the conversation these recommendations will generate. I am confident Iowa will continue building an educator development system that focuses on improvement and puts student learning at the center of the process.
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