Supervision the most important part of teacher evaluations

2013-06-02T00:00:00Z Supervision the most important part of teacher evaluationsBRET RANGE Casper Star-Tribune Online
June 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

There are two types of people who work in K-12 public education, teachers and individuals who support teachers.

Educational research has repeatedly identified teacher “effectiveness” as the most important factor in student learning. The work that teachers accomplish in classrooms matters, and public education’s top priority should be developing teachers.

In my opinion, all other policy discussions in public education (for example, class size, school funding, student assessment, Common Core State Standards) are second to policy discussions that center on improving teachers, collectively referred to as “teacher supervision and evaluation.” Although teacher supervision and evaluation have different outcomes, they complement one another.

Supervision is providing coaching to build teachers’ capacity. Evaluation is assigning merit to teachers’ performance.

Sadly, many teacher supervision and evaluation procedures adopted by school districts do little to impact teachers’ performance. Typically, teachers and administrators view teacher supervision and evaluation procedures as bureaucratic hurdles that must be cleared, simply one more task principals must accomplish. This stigma is magnified by the fact that many teacher supervision and evaluation mechanisms require principals to formally or informally visit teachers’ classrooms two or fewer times per year, depending on teacher tenure status. As a result, it is appropriate to have a discussion about how to effectively supervise and evaluate teachers so the process is relevant to teachers and improves their instructional practice. As a result, my opinions on teacher supervision and evaluation are underpinned by three points: (a) school leadership is key to effective teacher supervision and evaluation, (b) teacher supervision and evaluation should be comprehensive in scope, and (c) policy makers should focus more on supervision and less on evaluation.

First, as with any initiative in education, effective teacher supervision and evaluation starts with school leadership. Both district and school leaders are the lynchpin to ensure teacher supervision and evaluation is meaningful. District leadership must adopt comprehensive and fair teacher supervision and evaluation district policies and practices. Most importantly, district leaders must expect and hold school leaders (principals) accountable to be in teachers’ classrooms daily and weekly. This includes district leaders’ responsibility in training principals on how to ensure teachers are providing high-quality instruction. Effective principals routinely visit teachers’ classrooms and provide formative, corrective feedback to teachers. Routinely visiting classrooms is critical because it is ludicrous to assume we can create a clear picture of teachers’ effectiveness by formally and informally visiting their classrooms fewer than five times per year. Principals must be in all teachers’ classrooms weekly, for extended periods of time, and district leaders must hold principals accountable for performing this task.

I was an elementary principal for seven years, and the common rebuttal I heard was: “But I don’t have time to do that between meetings, student discipline and parent conferences.”

The bottom line is if teacher development is a priority, both district and school leaders will find a way to routinely visit teachers’ classrooms.

Second, school districts must operationally define “effective” teaching and be clear about how to measure it in spite of recent trends to simply use test scores. Part of teaching is a social endeavor and many complex variables impact students’ learning, although teachers are the most significant. Simply stated, students’ test scores should be used as one piece of data in a comprehensive supervision and evaluation model that might include data collected from: classroom observations (assessed by principals, instructional coaches, or peers); student assessment data on various indicators focused on growth (mostly formative assessments); instructional artifacts like student work, scoring rubrics, and lesson plans; teachers’ self-reflection within journals or logs; age-appropriate student surveys or parent surveys; and teachers’ professional development/growth plans.

One key in selecting data sources is to ensure teachers have buy-in on what they perceive as fair and representative of quality teaching. Although educational leaders should have non-negotiables in regards to teacher performance expectations, leaders must solicit teachers’ feedback about supervision and evaluation if they expect the procedures to impact practice.

Finally, all too often, policy makers fixate on evaluation and neglect supervision. Evaluation is simply an analysis of data collected during the supervision process. Teacher supervision is the only way to improve teachers’ instructional practice, and as a result, educational resources need to be devoted to the improvement of teaching practices rather than simply assigning a label to teachers’ performance.

In the end, I acknowledge the age of accountability in public education will not and should not vanish. However, I disagree in teacher accountability policies that hinge solely on evaluation and ignore supervision. I believe

99 percent of teachers desire to be considered “effective” the first time they enter classrooms and if given the opportunity, they will work hard to accomplish this benchmark. The key to teacher development lies within well-planned teacher supervisory activities and should not be concerned with publicly labeling teachers.

Bret Range is an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Wyoming. His research interests include teacher supervision and grade retention.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Untitled Document

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps...

  1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

  2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

  3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

  4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

  5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at, or call Editor Jason Adrians at 266-0545 or Content Director David Mayberry at 266-0633. This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

  6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

  7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

  8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick