November 29, 2017

I hope everyone had a relaxing Thanksgiving holiday with their loved ones and friends.  The following is our last update for November. I hope you find it informative.
Student Growth as Part of Teacher Evaluation
On November 14, 2017, Education Week ran an article titled "Are States Changing Course on Teacher Evaluation." This article pointed out that six states-Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma-have now dropped requirements that evaluations include student growth measures. Other states including Connecticut, Nevada and Utah passed policies that require some evidence of student learning but prohibit using state standardized-test scores for that purpose. The article goes on to state "...the fate of teacher evaluations in many states may be dependent on the 2018 election results." The article also points out that the changes brought on by the new ESSA requirements allow states to design their own teacher evaluation systems.
My own thoughts on teacher evaluation have also evolved. I am one of the original members of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Committee (PEAC) that formed in 2010 after the passing of the Performance-Based Teacher and Principal Evaluation law. At first I thought it was a good idea to include student test scores in teacher evaluation. I then learned that the popular concept called "Value Added" test scores was not a valid and reliable measure for evaluating teachers.
It looks like Illinois developed its evaluation system correctly by allowing the use of student growth as the student performance measure. However, I have witnessed that some school districts have developed local "Joint Committee" student growth plans that have low rigor, are not aligned to district/state standards, are not collaboratively developed, are not evaluator approved, and do not have common scoring of assessments. These attributes are all included in best practices for using student growth for teacher evaluation.
I believe that districts that encourage or even require the above mentioned five best practice attributes for student growth and also use student growth scores to grow teacher practices via practices such as Professional Learning Communities, will see increases in student achievement as well as student growth. It is not OK for students to just show growth if they are several grade levels behind in student achievement.
As educational leaders we need to promote teacher development by comparing teachers' student growth scores and encouraging-even requiring-teachers who have higher growth scores to share with their fellow teachers what methodologies they are using to obtain these results. At this point in the journey through the use of student growth scores for teacher evaluation, I am of the opinion it does not matter for the teacher's final summative rating. It does matter in the professional development of the teacher to become a master teacher whose students' growth scores are excellent.
I would like to offer one last discussion point concerning student growth scores. Administrators should be comparing the student growth score to the teacher's practice rating. The teachers with the highest practice rating should have the highest growth scores. If they do not correlate, then we need to look at both the evaluators' expertise at conducting teacher practice observations and ratings, and how we are determining student growth score ratings.


IASA offers an administrators' academy titled "Moving from Vision to Action: Learn How to Become an Essentialist." I highly recommend this academy for all school administrators. I have presented this academy to several school districts and in every presentation participants tell me it is the best academy they have ever taken.
The primary message of this academy is for participants to reflect on their own professional and most importantly personal goals. Participants learn how to:
  • Use essentialist ideals to prioritize, eliminate the non-essentials, learn to say no, and get the right things done to lead effectively and achieve goals.
  • Apply the concepts of essentialism to school decision making.
  • Utilize self-management principles to determine values and priorities while setting specific boundaries with time and expectations.
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain


A Principal who was participating in one of my Advanced Danielson academies asked me if I had read the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by Dr. John J. Ratey (Spark). This Principal knew I am a runner and thought I might be interested in the book. I am always looking for books to read (I do not read most of these books; I listen to them on my iPhone while I am running). I strongly recommend this book for all school administrators, all physical education teachers and all teachers.

Author Dr. John Ratey gives detailed scientific evidence about how exercise improves learning in students. Dr. Ratey outlines seven specific conditions, including anxiety, depression and ADHD among others, which can benefit tremendously with appropriate and adequate physical activity. I believe if you read this book you will transform your schools and make fitness a critical component of your district's curriculum.
Classroom Atmosphere
My son-in-law, David LaFrance, is the principal of Oakland Elementary School in Bloomington, Illinois. David was showing me around his building and introduced me to second grade teacher Kim Carthans. Ms. Carthans had attended The Ron Clark Academy the previous summer and thus had redesigned her classroom.
Recently, the Bloomington Pantagraph wrote an article on Ms. Carthans' classroom titled " In energized D-87 teacher's class, every day is 'best day.' " Ms. Carthans comments on her classroom include the following:
"The school was breathtaking. I described it as teacher heaven," said Carthans. "It looks a little like Disney World, but if you stripped it all away, the core of the school is teachers stepping up. They're more engaged, inviting and building rigor."
The academy teaches educators to build bonds with students, shake up their teaching style and ignite student passion.
"I decided I had to get out of my comfort zone and be bold and different in the classroom," said Carthans. "I learned classrooms can be more student-led. It's more about the teacher being a guide and stepping back to let students take ownership of their learning."
Please take a look at the website of The Ron Clark Academy and investigate ways to change the ways your classroom looks and functions.
Tip of the Week
I mentioned in an earlier article that the one common problem I see as I visit classrooms today is that teachers talk too much (and do too much of the work) and students talk too little. I recently tweeted an article on this topic. I think the suggestions in this article are very good and I would recommend sharing the article with your administrative staff and discuss who is doing the most talking in your classrooms. The title of the article is " 8 ways teachers can talk less and get kids talking more ," by Angela Watson. It can be found on Pinterest and on Ms. Watson's website The Cornerstone for Teachers here .
The 8 ways are as follows:


1.     Don't steal the struggle.

2.       Move from the front of the classroom.

3.      Teach students signals for your often-repeated phrases and for transitions.

4.      Use non-verbal reinforcement for behavior whenever possible.

5.      Turn your statements into questions and prompts.

6.      Instead of asking, "Does that make sense?" say, "Can you put that in your own words?"

7.      Stop repeating yourself.

8.      Notice moments when you summarize/review for students and instead get their input.


For more information, please contact:

Dr. Richard Voltz
Associate Director
Professional Development/Induction-Mentoring
2648 Beechler Court
Springfield, IL 62703
Follow me on Twitter at: