Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tips for Goal-Setting in the New WV Teacher Evaluation System

    The new evaluation system for teachers in West Virginia will be very different from what you know now. We at Barboursville are participating in the field test and, thus far, the reception has been cautiously positive. I think the teachers at my school understand the importance of goal setting and are willing to give it a chance. After two years of working with teachers on things like student goal-setting and formative assessment, I feel very comfortable with this process. That said, I would like to pass along some of what I have learned. Here are some pointers to help you set pain-free professional goals when the time comes.

1. Know What You Cannot Use: Raising WESTEST scores is not an option when setting your goals. The WESTEST plays into a different part of your evaluation. 

2. Use Available Programs: Your district probably has several programs available. A few examples include AIMS Web, Scholastic Math/Reading Inventories, I CAN Learn, Acuity, DIEBLS, and WV Writes. You can use your own assessments, though these may come under more scrutiny than a criterion or norm-referenced test. If you use your own assessment - which I do - make sure it is of a high caliber and could be used by other teachers.

3. Think Growth: The wording of your goals should reflect student growth. For one, it is a healthier mindset for students and teachers to have. Read Mindset, by Carol Dweck, for more information. Growth is also the primary factor that you, the teacher, can influence. Not every child comes to you on the same level, but you have the ability to be an agent of growth for each one that walks though your door.

4. Compose with Care: You can set goals for all of your students (i.e. "All students will..."), or a certain segment of your population, ("...my Low-SES subgroup will..."). You can even choose a certain standard or group of standards on which to focus. If you are choosing students, choose carefully. A student who is in the 99th percentile may not be able to show growth. A student in the 1st percentile may not be able to show high achievement. If you reverse the criteria, however, you are in a better position. If you choose a standard or cluster you are uncomfortable teaching, you may not show either! 

5. Be Reasonable: 50% growth is a lot to expect on a rigorous assessment, but expect more than 1% growth as well. Statistically, you can usually show significance with around 5% growth, but I find 15-18% easily obtainable in most units. It will vary widely with what you are teaching and what assessment tool you are using. Raw score growth can be unreliable in non-standardized assessments. Therefore, describe student growth in terms of percentages whenever you use your own tool. 
6. Assess, Assess, Assess: All you will need is two points in time, but you may want to assess regularly along the way to make sure you students are on track to achieve the goal. This will allow you to make adjustments and differentiate instruction to help students along - especially your neediest students. In The Art and Science of Teaching, Dr. Robert Marzano makes the case that more assessments lead to better outcomes for students. I do not mean standardized tests, but the in-class assessments that directly relate to what you are teaching.

7. Give Yourself Some Wiggle Room: Even under ideal conditions, not every student will show growth. The larger population you include in your goal, the more modest result you should expect. You may seek 20-25% growth for 75-85% of your students. You might seek 10-15% growth for 100% of your students. Either way, you are striving for a result that is rigorous and achievable. I think the two ways to look bad in the new system are 1) always achieve low goals, and 2) never achieve impossible goals. I find no wisdom in either one.

8. Don't Over-Think It: The #1 thing I notice in people who request help with their goals: over-thinking the subject. This is where the goal setting exercise from before comes in handy. Your goal may have been to break a six-minute mile. Maybe your goal was to lose ten pounds. Maybe your goal was to get the garage cleaned up during Thanksgiving Break. Whatever it was, apply the same logic to your professional goals. Make it plain and simple - get a certain result in a certain period. It may be a two-week unit (pre and post testing), or a yearlong process (such as progress monitoring with AIMS Web, DIEBLS, or Scholastic). Use as well-established assessment tools as you can to ensure the data is as valid and reliable as possible. If your goals are reasonable and your results are justifiable, then you will be just fine. 

9. Just Do It: Now, quit thinking and start writing. Just like when your students are learning something new, it is going to take practice, feedback, and revision. Work with colleagues, administrators, and central office personnel to develop solid goals that are reasonable and will have a positive impact on your students. 

Here are some goals that will face the fire this year:
- By May 1st, 90% of my students will show an average Quantile growth of 80Q on the Scholastic Math Assessment. (SMI scores tend to fluctuate quite a bit, hence the wiggle room)
- No later than April 30th, students will use the Five-Step Writing Process to gain an average overall increase of one point on an argumentative writing prompt in WV Writes. (It sounds like the title to a dissertation, but it has all of the pertinent info in it)
- Using a Water Cycle assessment obtained from SMART Exchange, all students will show an average gain of 15% from the pre-test to the post-test. 

Note: The system is still in its formative stages. I have based this article on my experience in the current field test. You will receive a handbook that outlines the procedures for writing goals. Make sure yours meet the requirements therein. It would be a good time to start writing practice goals, and running them by those of us already in the new system, so that you can be prepared when the time comes.

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