Education Week - October 31, 2012 - (Page 21)

EDUCATION WEEK n OCTOBER 31, 2012 n 21 “ cisely define the behaviors that lead to school success, and they make no apology for just how complex the job has become. But they focus on factors that research indicates are directly within the principal’s control. Building principal capacity in each of these domains—not reliance on a single policy lever—holds the key to genuine school improvement. The naesp and the nassp, which the two of us lead, share a About the Necktie The federal government should encourage states to develop effective principal-evaluation systems based on multiple and meaningful measures.” long-held belief that any policies related to principal evaluation should be based on valid, fair, and reliable measurements, and used as a collaborative school improvement tool and not for punishment. Evaluation is not something that should be done to principals, and effective evaluation-system designs will be accurate and useful when principals are active contributors to the process. Furthermore, effective principal evaluation needs to be seen as part of a comprehensive system of support, including high-quality professional development, induction support for early-career principals, and recognition of advanced performance. Principals recognize that their relationships with supervisors, schools, and communities impact leadership. PAGE 23 > M “ By Scott D. Farver aybe this is a silly thing to think and worry about as an educator, but it is something I wrestle with every morning. I never really paid much attention to it in my other jobs, but I now stare at myself in the mirror each morning with this question: What do I wear to school? It sounds like something a 5-year-old would ask (I don’t believe my tone is quite as whiny), but I really do fret about this every day. Even now, working in a university setting, I spend a good deal of time deciding on my appearance before leaving the house each morning. This indecision dates back to my first year of teaching in an elementary school a few years ago and continues to this day in my work at a university. My wife and I were fresh out of the Peace Corps, and I was pretty laid-back about the clothes I wore to school every day. A typical outfit would involve khakis and some sort of untucked polo shirt. Not nearly as dressed-down as I was for my volunteer experience in the Philippines, but not the best I could do. I think subconsciously I was trying to go for the I-just-returned-from-Peace-Corps-and-don’t-want-(or-knowhow)-to-dress-professional look. Judging from pictures of that year, I hit that look spot on. The following year was more of the same, with a couple of haircuts thrown in. Then something shifted. It started with a simple bet I made with myself: Could I wear a tie every day to school for a month? I teach in rural New Mexico. Unfortunately, the state ranks toward the GAIL CONNELLY is the executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, in Alexandria, Va. JOANN BARTOLETTI is the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, in Reston, Va. The report can be found at Was I supposed to conform to the prevailing culture and dress more like my co-workers?” bottom of the nation in personal income and toward the top in poor health habits and alcohol use. In this high-poverty area, even a teacher like me wearing a $6.99 discountstore tie is a pretty unusual sight. I definitely stood out. By the end of the first week, my 5th graders were asking me why I was so dressy, and one teacher scoffed, “Isn’t that a bit much for here?” For better or worse, regardless of the comments, I stuck to my bet for a month and ended up really liking wearing a tie to school. I felt more professional. I felt more important. I felt like my students felt like they were more important. I decided to continue my bet for the entire year. My male principal occasionally tossed on a bolo, which fit the school’s style quite well. Seeing this made me think a lot about what I was doing and gave me incentive to stick with it. Yet the comment from that one teacher ate at me. What did families and the other teachers think of me? Was it too much? Was I supposed to conform to the prevailing culture and dress more like my co-workers, even if sometimes I felt like they were too dressed-down for our profession? I began to focus more on how other people dressed and how I looked in contrast. Then in the middle of the school year, my students and I had a surprise that convinced me to go all double-Windsor every time I entered a classroom. My 5th graders wrote letters to provoke meaningful change in the world. Many students decided to write to President Barack Obama asking him to take seriously the problems of bullying in schools and alcohol abuse among preteens—both of which are major problems in our area. Though I was a Negative Nelly and told them they would have a better chance of getting a response from a local official, the White House responded. We received a letter from Washington, and I was stunned to receive a voice mail from the White House as well, informing me that if the president were in our area, he would love to stop by and see us. This got me thinking. What if the president really did decide to come to our school? How would that change the way people dressed? I believe everyone would be dressed to the nines because, well, that is what people usually do when a world leader visits. I know I would. I would be sure to wear a tie if the president were visiting. If I wore a tie for an important person like the president of the United States but not for my students, what kind of message would that send? If I did not wear a tie, did that mean they were unimportant? I don’t know if my students would ever reach that conclusion, but I felt like it was implied somehow. We dress up for important people and events. We dress up for presidents. My students are important. Every day of school is important, as important as if the president were visiting. While I am not proselytizing that every staff member in a school building dress up, I do feel that students need to know they matter. So I wear a tie. I shine my shoes. I get haircuts. I try to reflect their value by what I wear, how I speak, and how I behave. When I enter a classroom, I think about how I look because I want my students to know they are important, as important as a president. n SCOTT D. FARVER is a former 5th grade teacher. He is now a visiting assistant professor of education at Western New Mexico University-Gallup. teachers is face to face, ideally within 24 hours of the visit and, if possible, in the teacher’s classroom when students aren’t there. Chatting on the teacher’s home turf is an important gesture and can take advantage of props, student work, and visual cues in the classroom. Most teachers find evaluation visits nervous-making, and by far the best way to reduce anxiety is to give teachers the opportunity, every time, to explain the context and tell a little about what was going on before and after the visit. These feedback conversations, which usually take less than five minutes, are wonderful opportunities for appreciation, coaching, exchange of ideas, instructional improvement—and the ongoing pedagogical education of principals. Face-to-face talks are the drivers of change. • Documenting findings for the record: As short, unannounced classroom visits become accepted as a legitimate form of supervision and evaluation, it’s clear that they need to be documented in some fashion. Superintendents, school board members, and the public are not going to be satisfied with assurances that lots of wonderful conversations are going on every week between principals and teachers. It’s also helpful for the principal and the teacher to be able to access a written summary of the feedback after a classroom visit and postobservation conversation. In this domain, using technology is the most efficient and effective way for administrators to keep track of their observations and document their impressions. The ideal software has lists of teachers and makes it easy, after a classroom visit, to record the date of the visit; the time of day; the curriculum unit; whether the visit took place at the beginning, middle, or end of the lesson; when each follow-up chat took place; a brief summary of the feedback after the chat (perhaps limited to 1,000 characters); and any response from the teacher. At least one software product allows for all of this, and some include summative rubrics so administrators can pull together the year’s classroom observations and other data, compare scores with teachers’ self-assessments, and finalize each teacher’s end-of-year evaluation. In sum, I believe that with the four steps in teacher observation and feedback, high-tech/low-tech/low-tech/ high-tech is the best way for administrators to focus on what’s happening in classrooms and give thoughtful, effective feedback that will make a genuine contribution to improving the quality of teaching and learning. n KIM MARSHALL is a coach for principals, a speaker and consultant to educators, and the publisher of the weekly Marshall Memo, an online publication that summarizes reporting on research and best practices. He worked previously as a teacher, principal, and centraloffice leader in the Boston public schools. He is the author of Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (Jossey-Bass, 2009; a second edition of the book is being published in 2013).

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 31, 2012

Education Week - October 31, 2012
‘i3’ Grantees Face Hurdles on Aid Match
Teacher-Leader Degree Designed as a Vehicle For Career Fulfillment
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Caution Urged on ‘Value Added’ Reviews
College Board Head to Make Underserved a Priority
Miami-Dade Wins $550,00 Broad Prize For Urban Education
E-School Conference Highlights Blended Ed.
Pa. Moves to Ease Penalties for Minors Who Engage in ‘Sexting’
Education Issues Suffuse Ballots
New Orleans Board Race a Magnet For Outsiders’ Cash
Blogs of the Week
Graduation Rates Latest Waiver Flash Point
Practical Hurdles at Play in Pennsylvania Charter-Law Revamp
Policy Brief
Rethinking Principal Evaluation
Teacher Observation: Tech or No Tech?
About the Necktie
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Redefining the Federal Role In Education: Advice for the Winner of Next Week’s Election

Education Week - October 31, 2012