Tag Archives: administration

Aligning Teacher and Admin Goals to Get The Most Out of Evaluation

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Teacher evaluation can be tough for everyone involved. And in the context of literacy instruction, teachers and administrators oftentimes are not on the same page when it comes to understanding what good literacy instruction looks like, and what criteria to set for evaluation.

In Making Teacher Evaluation Work, Rachael Gabriel and Sarah Woulfin examine the roles of teachers, teacher leaders, coaches, and principals in supporting high-quality literacy instruction in the context of accountability and evaluation policy. 

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The Need for Making Teacher Evaluation Work

E08879_Gabriel and Woulfin_Bookcover_0358With new-generation teacher evaluation policies in place, the evaluation process may seem as daunting as ever—for both teachers and evaluators. And when both sides have a different understanding of what teacher evaluation looks like in the context of literacy instruction, evaluations can end up entirely unproductive.

As Making Teacher Evaluation Work points out, it doesn't have to be this way.  Authors Rachael Gabriel and Sarah Woulfin walk you through the entire teacher evaluation process and offer context and strategies aimed at improving the process for everyone involved. The authors clearly show how effective evaluations provide the foundation for collaboration that improves literacy instruction, promotes teacher growth, and supports schoolwide improvement.

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Evaluating Beginning Teachers

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As a beginning teacher, not knowing what areas of your teaching to improve can be overwhelming. This is where teacher evaluations come in handy.

In Making Teacher Evaluation Work, authors Rachael Gabriel and Sarah Woulfin examine the evaluation process from both a teacher and administrator point of view. The authors suggest ways to bring these two different perspectives together with the goal of improving the evaluation process, and using teacher evaluations to improve teaching. 

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Creating Empowered Teacher and Evaluator Relationships

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In Making Teacher Evaluation Work, Rachael Gabriel and Sarah Woulfin walk you through the entire teacher evaluation process—from policy to practice—offering context and strategies with the goal of improving the process for everyone involved. The authors examine the roles of teachers, teacher leaders, coaches, and principals in supporting high-quality literacy instruction in the context of accountability and evaluation policy.

Teacher evaluations can cause unwanted tensions on both sides. In the following video, authors Rachael and Sarah discuss what an empowered teacher and evaluator relationship looks like, as well as how to maintain one.

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Discussions with small school districts . . .

Grant Funding Success

Carissa O’Gara has worked at the Moultonborough, New Hampshire school district since 1986 as a learning disabilities and reading specialist; she is currently the Title I project manager. She is passionate about reading and writing and, when not teaching, she loves to be outdoors hiking, biking, kayaking, and skiing.

I asked Carissa how her district transformed their reading program.

“We were using a basal reader, and we wanted to move away from that canned program and move kids into reading more authentic kinds of literature. So we formed a study group around Fountas & Pinnell’s Guiding Readers and Writers: Teaching Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy. Every Wednesday, the teachers got together and discussed what we needed to do to unfold a whole new way of thinking about teaching. This yearlong starting point has led to a completely different approach toward meeting the diverse needs of all of our students.”

Carissa also told me how excited she is about Fountas & Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention System:

“I cannot say enough positive about the impact of this program: it’s a little like magic. It’s very comprehensive, embedding reading, writing, word study, and vocabulary instruction, and addresses all the areas in which you want students to become proficient—comprehension, communicating ideas, fluency, vocabulary, all the components of high-quality reading instruction. The kids (and their parents) love the materials. The leveled books are so well written. You can tell there’s been a lot of care put into the details. It’s a really good fit for our students. It’s been a very exciting step.

Leveled Literacy Intervention is an especially good fit for a small school because professional development is built in. It’s not often I can travel to offsite workshops. With the resources on the Heinemann website and the CDs that accompany the teacher manual and resource guide, I have what I need to do the kind of teaching that’s going to help my students move forward.”

Is your district considering moving away from a basal program? Authors Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell have already helped hundreds of thousands of K–3 teachers engage, inform, and inspire early readers and writers. Now, with Guiding Readers and Writers (Grades 3–6), Fountas and Pinnell support teachers on the next leg of the literacy journey, addressing the unique challenges of teaching upper elementary students.

View Fountas & Pinnell’s Language and Literacy framework here.

Fountas & Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) is small-group supplementary literacy intervention designed for students who find reading and writing difficult. Through systematically designed lessons and original, engaging leveled books, LLI supports learning in both reading and writing and helps students expand their knowledge of language and words and how they work. The goal of LLI is to bring students to grade-level achievement in reading.

Click here to Download a digital sampler.

About the author: Pamela is a Resource Support Representative at Heinemann. She has ten years of publishing industry experience. Pamela is pleased to work with our customers in the Upper Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. 

Imagine it Better: Visions of What School Might Be

Author Luke Reynolds has taught middle and secondary English in public high schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Luke’s new book “Imagine It Better: Visions of What School Might Be” features 18 provocative invitations from some of the most brilliant and creative minds in education today, including Tony Wagner, Andy Hargreaves, Noam Chomsky, and Linda Darling-Hammond. The book focuses on the present tense of school reform: what you can do to improve the instruction in your classroom and school today.  Each essay tells a story of what can be—with the heartbeat of imagination and a fresh vision of possibilities.

In his introduction, Luke writes how his hope for transformative action led to Imagine it Better.

Introduction written by Luke Reynolds 

It's day eleven of the government shutdown. I drive through a national park to go to work each morning, so I don't have to check the news to see whether the government is up and running yet. I just look out my car window and see the orange cones still blocking the entrances to the parking lots. The shutdown is akin to a potent virus for which we've yet to find a vaccine. We stop imagining what could happen and start judging one another for what hasn't happened. We're quick to point our collective finger at everyone else rather than ask what we might be able to do together.

In education, we see some of the same paralysis that comes from intense judgment and evaluation. As soon as we think one person, one school, one professor, one business leader, one billionaire, one researcher, or one organization has "the answer,"we all too quickly begin criticizing and critiquing everyone else. We see scarcity, failure, and strife instead of possibilities for transformation.

Shutting down is the exact opposite of our goal as educators. We walk into our classrooms each morning hoping that openings will occur. We hope that our students' minds will open to new possibilities, views, ideas, opportunities, skills, and challenges. We hope that our own hearts will be more open to caring, investing, believing -again- that what seemed impossible yesterday will be obtainable today. We hope that our schools will flourish as places of joy and creativity and challenge and – yes – imagination.

Lewis Hyde, in his poignant and remarkable book The Gift (2007), provides a scathing critique of a society that builds itself on principles of shutting down, of scarcity and insufficiency. He writes, "The market-industrial system institutesscarcity, in a manner completely unparalleled and to a degree nowhere else approximated. Where production and distribution are arranged through the behavior of prices, and all livelihoods depend on getting and spending, insufficiency of material means becomes the specific, calculable starting point of all economic activity" (28).

We need to think seriously about the purpose of our schools in this context. Is public education also built on the ideals of a market-industrial system, complete with economic justifications? Or are its intentions deeper, more complex, more fulfilling to both the self and to society? By narrowing conversations of educational purpose to pathways of progress via test scores and standardization alone, we move toward production and distribution. We quantify inputs and outputs and try to increase the rates of these inputs and outputs as if human connection and growth can be reduced to an equation.

The writers of the essays in this book reject simple equations and productdistribution mindsets. Instead, they are re-envisioning possibilities. They are not interested in profits – in "getting and spending" – but rather are empowered by the goal of improving the lives of students, teachers, and society at large. What if instead of beginning with a scarcity mindset that causes students, teachers, parents, administrators, and others invested in education to shut down, we start with an imaginative mindset? What if we imagine education as we want it to be, remembering that education is, at its core, about people and relationships, not about "getting and spending"?

Diane Ravitch (2010) powerfully warns that "the schools will surely be failures if students graduate knowing how to choose the right option from four bubbles on a multiple-choice test, but unprepared to lead fulfilling lives, to be responsible citizens, and to make good choices for themselves, their families, and our society" (224). If we always begin with blame over test scores and chastisement about what our tax dollars are "getting" us as a society, we will be lost in a perpetual cycle of scarcity. We may enable students to score better on bubble tests, but the goal of guiding them to lead fulfilling lives and creating a responsible, just society will recede farther in our rear-view mirror. We need to return to the elemental questions, imagine how school could be – what we want school to create and what we believe it should do – and propose the most inspired and inspiring ways to achieve these possibilities.

This goal recognizes the structural inequalities inherent in a system of education that is based on "getting and spending," one that views success as correct answers rather than authentic growth, social equality, and transformation. Asking one another to re-envision what we expect of schools is not easy, and there is a layer of privilege in even having the time and resources to pose these kinds of questions. Yet there is a great responsibility to do so, lest our privilege march onward toward profit and even oppression. If we take seriously the call to educate students, we need to imagine how knowledge can be viewed differently, how we can create it differently, how we hear it, explain it, share it, and – especially – how we count it.

Poet Mary Oliver (1998) asks a hard question that deserves an honest response from educators, administrators, and policymakers: Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life? We can blame and criticize one another, point fingers, and advocate for a thousand mini-shutdowns throughout our educational system. Or we can start imagining other possibilities and share those possibilities in ways that empower and inspire. We can work toward re-envisioning what counts as knowledge and forge new paths rather than walk those dictated by market-industrialism.

Just as one rain shower will not grow a field of flowers, one person or group will not devise a plan that transforms our educational system perfectly. But if we can learn to offer ideas grounded in imagination, grown with hope, and empowered by action and belief, we will be well on our way toward creating something new. As Hyde tells us, The passage into mystery always refreshes. If, when we work, we can look once a day upon the face of mystery, then our labor satisfies" (25). It is time for us to be refreshed by diving into what could be, and in order to do so we must tell Scarcity and Status Quo that their time at the table of education is through. We need to invite Imagination to sit with us, knowing full well that while things might get messy, these ideas will lend strength to our hands and freshness to our ideas: our labor will deeply satisfy.

Out of this hope for and commitment to transformative action comes the book you hold in your hands. From Sonia Nieto's poignant and insightful assignment asking her students to explore what makes an ideal school to Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Rebecca Stern's exploration of inquiry as a remarkable and eye-popping way to gaze on the world, our students, and ourselves to Samantha Bennett's humorous andprofound exploration of collaboration and coaching throughout a school district, each essay is a story about what could be and each story has the heartbeat of imagination. The authors here are seeking to go beyond describing the past or repeating the present; they are willing to look deeply into Hyde's mystery to describe something we can't quite yet see and sometimes we can't believe could ever exist.

What is required of us in this moment is to open up, not shut down. We need to look honestly and reflectively at ourselves, our public education system, and our means. Instead of viewing each with a scarcity mindset bent on highlighting failures and worshipping bubble tests, we need to focus on the overwhelming surplus that is – right now – part of public education. In what specific ways do authentic human connections lead students and teachers to incredible growth? How do empowering, justice-oriented teaching methods transform classrooms? In what ways can – and do – classrooms create new cultures and possibilities rather than recapitulate old ones? And how do we close our ears to the numbing refrain of criticism and fear so we can see with fresh vision the incredible human capacity for transformation before us?

The essays in this book do just that.


Hyde, Lewis. 2007. The Gift. New York: Random House.

Oliver, Mary. 1998. West Wind: Prose and Prose Poems. New York: Mariner Books.

Ravitch, Diane. 2010. The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York: Basic Books.

Imagine it Better is out today. To read a sample chapter for Imagine it Better click here: http://hubs.ly/y04vnW0