Leadership magazine March/April 2018 V47 No. 4 | Page 39

ment of Education and it too can be linked back to the accountability conversation, but with a twist. Rather than mandating tighter controls, the grant offered pilot sites the op- portunity to join a small but growing num- ber of districts interested in pursuing the challenging task of developing a continuous improvement system that supports effec- tive teaching and the professional growth of teachers. Without question, there is room for improvement in California’s current sys- tem. For example, Robla’s system has been two-fold. There is an informal process dur- ing which principals work with individual teachers to set specific goals and then con- duct classroom observations looking for evidence of those goals. The second, formal process, involves two 45-minute observa- tions with a final summary that goes in teachers’ files. The superintendent estimates that 95 per- cent of teachers receive the highest ratings in those formal evaluations. That may sound like a good thing, but while Robla has great teachers, it isn’t because all of them consis- tently excel. We know that the ratings are sometimes inflated because principals don’t want to put negative feedback into teach- ers’ files. Nor do they want to come across as overly critical with beginning teachers. We know that because of the “honest” feedback that came through informal dis- cussions with principals about their teachers and through the superintendent’s own ob- servations of teaching practices. The practice of high scoring is problematic and makes it clear that the commitment and skill set of principals varies. Relevant research and policy initiatives across the country over the past 20-plus years hint at other challenges, including the technical complexity (e.g., limitations of measures, calibration), along with the social, economic and political implications, including equitable distribution of teachers, contract negotiations, performance-based compensation, locally controlled funding and value-added measures that factor into the thinking and actions behind the effec- tiveness movement. It is easy to get “lost” in the complexity, to focus on mitigating the challenges, and Principals need to be seen as partners in helping teachers grow as professionals. to lose track of the reason for actually hav- ing an educator effectiveness movement, which is essentially to find ways to improve the education of all students by supporting the professional growth and development of educators. Drivers of improvement When REEd reached out to Robla it was not with the goal of helping it to overcome challenges or to ignore the complexity of the task, but rather