Thursday, July 9, 2015

Should Teachers Get Flight Reviews?

In over a decade in the classroom, I never received an evaluation that helped me improve as a teacher. Some years an administrator would observe my class for a few minutes and then fill out a form saying I am doing a good job and have me sign it. One year I opted for peer review which required I make a personal learning plan. I wrote a plan and worked on my goals, but there was no support for the learning or achieving my goals for the year. Another time an administrator wrote in my evaluation that I made an error in the calculations in a biology lab which later turned out to be an error in the textbook. He followed this all the way to the publisher and had the error fixed. While I appreciated the attention to detail by the administrator, this was not particularly helpful to my practice.

This is the case in many school districts today. Teacher evaluation, many times, is not meaningful and does not help teachers grow and progress in their own learning.

By Dmitrij.shpilchevskij  [CC BY-SA 3.0]
via Wikimedia Commons
My husband is a private pilot and Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), one night we were talking about pilot education and the bi-annual flight review process. A flight review involves a flight instructor observing a pilot's skill set while flying a plane as well their knowledge of flight procedures and aeronautical knowledge.

Airline pilots have additional flight reviews 6, 9 or 12 months depending on the company's requirements, this is called re-current training and is designed to keep them up on safety and other procedures.

The great part about flight reviews is that a pilot does not just fail and stop being a pilot. If there are any shortcomings or missing knowledge, the flight instructor works with the pilot to help them learn the needed information or skills. If a pilot does not pass their flight review, they cannot fly solo until they do. A flight instructor is assigned to help them until they improve and pass.

Maybe as educators we can learn something from the flight review process.

What if teachers had 'flight reviews'? 

We could call them Instructional Practice Reviews (IPRs). Or, we could broaden this to include technology, pedagogy and content knowledge and call them TPACK reviews. IPRs could include an oral assessment as well as classroom observation.

By Tcodl 16 [CC-BY SA 3.0]
via  wikimedia commons
Schools, districts and counties could identify specific teacher standards, technology, pedagogy and content knowledge that is a focus and target IPRs on those competencies and skills.

If a teacher was struggling or not performing at a certain level they could be assigned a coach or mentor to monitor their recurrent training. This training might consist of co-teaching, modeling, coursework, conferences, peer observation or other learning. A follow up IPR 3 or 6 months later could determine if they were making significant progress and able to 'fly solo' again.

If the goal is to provide a guaranteed curriculum and best first teaching for all students, then we need a system in place that helps teachers continually grow and improve. We know that ongoing, job embedded, personalized professional learning is key. With the achievement gap that now exists and the technology gap that is beginning to become evident among our students, we need to develop a teacher evaluation system that truly supports educators and helps them improve.

This is my first post on this topic. I will continue to think and research about ways we can improve teacher professional learning and evaluation. What do you think? I would love other input and ideas.