ELR12: Jason DeRoner on Teacher Observation Tools

Eduleadership RadioIn this episode of Eduleadership Radio, Jason DeRoner, CEO of TeachBoost, joins me to discuss the impact good software can have on school leaders’ ability to provide high-quality feedback.

Let me be blunt: Most apps made specifically for principals are junk, because the developers either aren’t very good, or they don’t understand the work of principals, or both. When I tried TeachBoost, I realized something was different, and I knew I had to talk to the person behind it.

Jason DeRoner photoI had a great time talking with Jason because he deeply understands instructional supervision, and TeachBoost has developed an amazing web-based app that works on a laptop, iPad, smartphone, or just about any other web-enabled device to help principals collect great information in walkthroughs or formal observations.

TeachBoost isn’t cheap, but they do have a free plan that’s worth checking out. You can create a free account here.

In our discussion, Jason and I talk about what school leaders need from their software in order for it to make a positive difference in their work without getting in the way. Whether or not you’re interested in a particular tool, I hope you find this discussion helpful to your thinking about instructional supervision and the way you provide feedback to teachers to support their growth.

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Inspection Doesn’t Cause Improvement

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[Arne] Duncan and [Bill] Gates propose developing measures of effectiveness to get rid of bad teachers and increase the pay of good ones. It sounds like common sense. Or does it?

This approach was called the “inspection” method by W. Edwards Deming, known as the father of the science of quality improvement. Inspection, he wrote, is not an effective way to improve quality because it has no effect on the process that caused suboptimal results in the first place. Real and continuous improvement, Deming argued, occurs only when the workers themselves study outcome variability and the processes that produce it.
–James Stigler, Rethinking Teacher Accountability – Before It’s Too Late (EdWeek, June 9, 2010)

I almost recycled this issue of EdWeek when I came across this essay from James Stigler of UCLA. He goes on to describe the Japanese practice of lesson study, and explains how it is both a form of accountability and a form of professional development.

Seattle’s Child Magazine on Teacher Evaluation

Seattle’s Child Magazine has an informative article on the state of teacher evaluation in Seattle Public Schools:

“Historically, there has not been a lot of will inside the school system to conduct a serious evaluation of employees. There’s been a failure of will to simply make use of the tools the district already had,” [school board member Steve] Sundquist says. “But this administration (under Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson) recognizes something needs to be done. The evaluation piece is critical. It’s front and center in the ways to improve how the district performs on behalf of our children.”

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The article references the National Council on Teacher Quality‘s report on the state of the teacher workforce in Seattle, which was recently commissioned by the Alliance for Education. You can download a PDF of the report here.

One of the proposed changes is a four-tier evaluation system. Rather than receive a “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” rating, teachers would be marked unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, or advanced. Similar change are under consideration at the state level.

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