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The ReVIEW Team

Observing for Practice Reveals Performance in Early Childhood Classrooms

4 min read


Preschool Programs flickr photo by Seattle Parks & Recreation shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Many smart educators ask us the best approach to evaluating and coaching teachers in early childhood classrooms.

We know when using frameworks for effective teaching ratings skew higher in lower grades. When class culture usually represents a single domain early childhood educators score better than middle school and high school teachers. You still have god-like qualities to three and four year olds. A much harder status to achieve with middle school students.

At the same time administrators often struggle to recognize key levers such as "intellectual-risk" and "involving student in the assessment practice" in the early grades.

What should you do then? At ReVIEW Talent Feedback System we encourage evaluators to look for very specific practices we know move the needle on learning.

We encourage districts and public charter schools we work with to create forms and systems  to help observe and coach research based practices. These include:

Dialogical Read Alouds


Kids and Reading flickr photo by VividImageInc shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Do students or the teacher drive discussion when reading books? During read alouds you can really look for practices that support comprehension and vocabulary.

Vocabulary Instruction


Early Childhood Development Programme flickr photo by A dynamic education NGO working across Nepal shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How do early childhood instructors teach words. Are these a few at a time? Are they focusing on sight words (too early) before developing meaning in academic vocabulary. Do they teach 2-3 words a day and constantly reinforce these words.

Phonemic Awareness


Trying out the Early Literacy Station flickr photo by bonnerlibrary shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

When we focus on sounds are we making this part of the day or figuring out creative ways to embed phonemic awareness? Great teachers often use segmenting and substitution games as part of their transitions. 7 minutes a day. That's all good phonemic awareness instruction takes.

Environmental Print


Pre school open house. overtheirshoulderseries flickr photo by clarkmaxwell shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Focus on the classroom and not just the people in the classroom. Is everything labeled? In multiple languages? Is student work displayed? Does the teacher use environmental print in neat ways. The coolest thing we ever observed was a reading castle made out of cereal boxes. Another classroom made a book that traveled home with kids with everyone's favorite cereal.

Assessment and Alphabetic Principle


Early Childhood Development Programme flickr photo by A dynamic education NGO working across Nepal shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

We see too many classrooms focusing on letter and sound connections incorrectly. Good teachers start with names and then move on to other names in the class. They may keep a daily log in journal where students write their names from September to June.

Center Time


Portland: Pre-School with Nate flickr photo by eliduke shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

We encourage schools to develop an observation protocol just for coaching center time effectively.  This time is so critical in the daily routine of the early childhood classroom. You have to examine how well the teacher organizes success criteria, does small group instruction, provides feedback at each center, and works with other adults in the room.

The Ultimate Goal

We belive learning through play builds our future. You need to observe for practices that we know drive student achievement. Too few of our coaching tools do not make the connection to actual learning in the classroom.

If you would like help ensuring your administrators and faculty have the capacity to deliver high quality instruction in early childhood classroom please do not hesitate to ask

The ReVIEW Team

States Don't Define Ineffective Teachers--Effective Administrators Do

3 min read


Blame flickr photo by !anaughty! shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I thought we had moved on from blaming teachers. In fact when the Every Student Succeeds Act passed I saw an opportunity to change the narrative that bad scores, equal bad schools caused by bad teachers.

I may have celebrated too soon. Last night on LinkedIn I came across this article, "States Struggle to Define Ineffective Teachers under ESSA"  and I had to shake my head.

I did not realize the law required every state to define ineffective teachers and then track where those teachers work.

I understand the desire of the civil reights community to ensure equal educational opportunities but labeling is the wrong approach.

I wonder if the issue we are trying to solve is much more systematic than at the teacher level. The difference in "teacher quality" has very little to do with ineffective teachers. No one expects a portion of pilots to be rated in effective because of an increased delayed flights. We expect pilots at the minimum to be effective in putting the plane in the air and then landing it again.

We as a society expect a level of expertise in people we hire. Yet we treat teachers differently. People want you to belive schools in the cities get overrun by lazy inneffective teachers.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

How do you define an ineffective teacher? You don't. That job belongs to their bosses job. We need to empower school adminstrators empower  to do so. What states should be submitting is detailed plans of how administrators learn to coach and evaluate.

In the article in EdWeek I think Ray Raossomando got it right:

Therein lies the difficulty. What's beneficial is a reliance on observations and what's grown to be rich conversations between supervisors and teachers.

The focus on evaluation and the use of a variety of frameworks has helped us rethink ways to support capacity of teachers and not just compliance with federal mandates.

We should do the same with defining ineffective teachers.

We need to protect the autonomy of schools and their choice in staff development. 

What should states do?

In their plans they should define inneffective teachers as any teacher that has been deemed ineffective by their supervisor based on the schools evaluation plan.

Then given the number of different frameworks used in every state and the flexibility returned to districts they should focus on the capacity of evaluators to deliver high quality feedback.

At ReVIEW Talent Feedback System we have a number of options states can include in their ESSA plans.

You can use our video based calibration and have coaches receive feedback on the quality of their observation reports.

Districts can utilize or inter-rater agreement reports to make sure evalautors see the same quality of teaching

Finally we have formed partnerships with other like minded companies to provide a comprehensive package of services to help in states where schools must navigate a budget crisis.

Capacity over Compliance

We need to move beyond the narrative of the ineffective teacher. Instead let us focus on growing the capacity of educators who serve people of color. We know what to do. Providing high quality feedback isn't science fiction.

The ReVIEW Team

Bethany Public Schools Joins the Team

2 min read

Some districts get it. They know schools should use evaluation not only as a tool for talent management but to encourage growth in teachers.

A culture of coaching and feedback matters.

Bethany Public Schools understands the connection between delivering high quality feedback to teachers and growth in student achievement. This fact makes us proud to share that Bethany Public Schools has joined in partnership with ReVIEW Talent Feedback System to take their vision even farther.

Working with partner districts who want to build a system of growth makes our job rewarding.

Bethany Public Schools will launch ReVIEW Talent Feedback System across the district beginning in July. Yesterday they met with Patrick to create customizable forms to populate the system, personalizing the system to their values and beliefs about feedback for learning.

The district far exceeds guidelines set by the state for teacher observation. In fact the district created a custom form for ongoing walkthroughs and an innovative teacher goal setting form that puts educators in charge of professional development.

“The level of customization and support provided by the ReVIEW team was unparalleled. They deliver a far better product, aligned to our vision of instructional and leadership excellence and, at a much lower price,” noted Colleen Murray, Superintendent of Bethany Schools.

Forward thinking districts, like Bethany Public Schools, that KNOW a better route to growth begins with a focus on capacity and not compliance should reach to [email protected] to learn how a partnership with us can help.

The ReVIEW Team

Key Lever Coaching: Five step plan to increasing instructional capacity

4 min read


Campy Downtube Shifter flickr photo by Allen McGregor shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Key Lever Coaching, a high impact professional development method, connects classroom practice to your school's chosen framework for effective teaching. By having evaluators focus on the key levers in a rubric you can implement a growth plan with the levels of fidelity and flexibility that staff development requires.

Rubrics contain many parts. You have criteria used to judge quality and the scales used to measure different level of quality in those criterion. Evaluators find the key levers, the phrases that a rating turns on, in the scale descriptors. Often words such as consistently to inconsistently, establishes to maintains, pr logical progression versus purposeful progression determine a teacher's rating.

While this can sound arbitrary and subjective (like any measurement tool a rubric is both) schools can use key levers as an easily reproducible method of professional development. These small words, in a climate that supports feedback and growth, can drive culture.


Knowledge flickr photo by UCFFool shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 

Step One: Know your Framework

Three elements drive a teacher's growth plan: personal goals, the school's vision, and your framework for effective teaching. 

This means more than using a rubric to conduct two informals and one formal every year or so. When used effectively a shared framework can help drive coaching conversations, identify professional development needs and help teachers grow.

Key lever coaching begins by ensuring administrators, evaluators, and teachers familiarize each other with your school's chosen framework for effective teaching.


Fuel cap flickr photo by bigpresh shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 

Step Two: Identify High Impact Practices

After the school has an understanding of your framework start to make connections to classroom practices that drive student achievement. 

What is the difference between a "logical and purposeful progression"?  Have your staff explore these questions. Begin at the criterion level. Have faculty brainstorm what they think effective questioning strategies look like in the classroom.

Then have your team categorize the examples using your quality scales (proficient, effective, exemplary, strong etc). Next return to your framework and apply the key levers as a lens. Where the questions, for example of low or high cognitive demands.

Then have groups of people describe two different classrooms using one of the earlier practices. Have them describe one class where the evidence would justify a lower rating and another where it would justify a higher rating.


anchor flickr photo by Scott Marley Photography shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 

Step Three: Anchor the Team

Now that your school, from the building lead to the newest teacher understand your framework you need to anchor your coaching team using some kind of calibration activity.

These can involve choosing specific indicators or domains watching videos together and then discussing the high impact practices using key levers.

You could also rely on a full video based calibration system that not only examines inter-rater reliability but judges your coaches abilities to use key levers in their observation reports. 

Got Feedback? flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 

Step Four: Deliver High Quality Feedback

Now comes the hard part. As a district you need to create a culture of coaching that goes far beyond required teacher evaluation plans. This takes buy-in from all stakeholders involved.

Frequent short observations focused on specific attributions and driven by key levers allow you to customize coaching to teacher goals. Scheduling walk throughs will allow you to see high impact practices occurring in the aggregate. Coaching your evaluators to deliver high quality written feedback using key levers holds the process together.


Compass flickr photo by Walt Stoneburner shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 

Step Five: Find Directions for Growth

While most key lever coaching happens informally or formally when debriefing lessons the summative written feedback provides valuable data in determining the direction for future professional development.

You can see areas where teachers may need greater support. You may notice for example that teachers struggle with  pacing of long term projects with enough scaffolds for knowledge growth. The questioning data could indicate a lack of student to student discourse in read alouds.

When you pull on the key levers you can help your faculty grow.

If you would like to learn how ReVIEW Talent Feedback can help your school grow using key levers please reach out. We have the systems and knowledge to guide teachers to greater instructional capacity.

Email [email protected] for more. 

The ReVIEW Team

Paper: The Only App an Evaluator Needs

2 min read


notebook flickr photo by waferboard shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I know, I know. We created a web app that 100s of educators use. School districts rely on our video based calibrations to ensure an adequate level of inter rater agreement. Some systems even have our coaches provide written feedback to evaluators. 

A growing number of districts have rejected the "big players" and wanted a comprehensive talent platform

An army of educational consultants have started to use our platform to deliver their professional development. They conduct observations, complete instructional audits, do curriculum evaluation, and program reviews. 

Non-profit organizations (who get access to the platform for free) have started to use ReVIEW to provide leadership training and track volunteer contributors.

Yet here I am telling you an evaluator only needs to carry paper to deliver high quality feedback.

Even with all the amazing tools we built I still do not enter an observation without a notebook.I encourage everyone regardless of the system you use to observe employees to rely heavily on paper.

I use this it to map student and teacher movement throughout the classroom.

In the above example I noticed that a teacher did not spend his time equally with all students. I draw the classroom as the  first thing I do when I enter a classroom to complete an observation. Then I can map movement and look for patterns. I coached the teacher to make sure she visits all students.

In the next example I tracked what students answered or were called on by the teacher. Notice anything? The high school science teacher disproportionately called on male students over female student. I worked with her to recognize how subtle bias can reinforce stereotypes in science.

Paper. Do not leave home without it.

If you would like to learn more about using ReVIEW Talent Feedback System to improve the capacity of your staff and employees reach out to us at [email protected]

The ReVIEW Team

3 Ways Your Phone Can Improve Your Teacher Observations

3 min read


Define "Improved" flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

As educators we made a few mistakes as we developed teacher evaluation plans. Too often you see someone sitting in the back of the room, walled behind their laptops religiously trying to script a lesson while also tagging evidence.

This approach did not serve the teacher nor the students. At ReVIEW Talent Feedback System we want your evaluation system to focus more on growth and not simply some checklist to keep your school in compliance.

Be an active observer rather than a passive note-taker. Talk to students. examine artifacts, check out the classroom library. Evidence of knowledge growth is everywhere.

That does not mean there is no place for technology. If you have a decent typing speed using a tablet or laptop can cut down on work down the road.

So can your phone. 

That powerful computer in your pocket can improve your observations. Here at ReVIEW we rely heavily on three apps as we observe teachers.

 

Tally Counter

An evaluator must understand and categorize the questioning and feedback that occurs during an observation. Trying to write down every question asked and every answer provided will lead you to miss a lot of good learning.

Instead of focusing on just individual questions use a tally maker app to record questions.

We use the following categories: teacher questions, student responses, follow-up questions, student to student dialogue. Once you complete the observation hopefully you see many more student responses that teacher questions. You would also expect the teacher to ask follow up questions more than 75% of the time and n the best classrooms the students question and build off of each other.

Evaluators can also use tally counters to track how often feedback connects to the stated learning objectives rather than one word affirmations such as , "Good."

You will find this data invaluable as you coach teachers for growth.

Common Core

Too often teachers think about differentiation only in terms of modifications. You see int in the plans of new teachers all the time with proximity being the only differentiation used. Educators also employ the tactic of simply adding or taking away problems for students to solve.

While modifications baed on IEPs and 504s are critical we must learn to differentiate using content. We use the Common Core app to quickly check if a teacher delivers a lesson designed to meet grade level expectations. You can then check a grade band below and higher to ensure differentiation occurs based on learning goals rather than tasks.

The Camera

We saved the most powerful app for last. Sometimes stuff happens too fast for an evaluator to capture. While we never take pictures of students or student work we use the camera often in observations. Most frequently we grab the objective or daily agenda. We might also snap a pic of an anchor chart. All of these artifacts help to improve the feedback we deliver to teachers.

The ReVIEW Team

Helping to Build a Better Web

2 min read

We have exciting news to share. Greg has accepted a volunteer role with Mozilla, the makers of Firefox,  and will serve on the Community Advisory Group. Dr. McVerry will bring his expertise of open pedagogy and community engagement to help Mozilla fulfill it's critical mission.

Greg will join 19 other people from 17 countries. The team consisting of 35% female members and both technical and non technical contributors will provide feedback on special Projects Mozilla undertakes in an effort connect the energies of the organization's diverse, global community.

George Roter, Open Innovation Lead, will chair the The Community Advisory Group, as they seek out to build and protect a better web by increasing the role the community plays in supporting Mozilla's mission and manifesto.


Compass Study flickr photo by Calsidyrose shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

The project will begin by focusing on Mozilla's True North, "a tangible, actionable bridge between our collective long-term, enduring core beliefs as laid out in the Mission, Vision, and Manifesto and our immediate product strategy."

 

The True North project, lead by Mitchel Baker, Mark Surman, and Chris Beard will help set Mozillas vision for the next ten years. The Community Advisory Group will begin to explore ideas that build prodcuts, catalyze others to take action, and advocating for issues like net neutrality that align to the Manifesto.


Mozilla_26May_76 flickr photo by paul_clarke shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Patrick Flynn, co-founder of ReVIEW Talent Feedback noted, "We can't be more proud of Greg. He takes his committment to diversity in tech to a global scale."

Greg noted that, "Culture is not something you inherit, but cultivate. If the open web will have a future we must all work together to esnure everyone, regardless of race, gender or geography has the same opportunity to read, write, and participate with each other." He then added, "Everything relies on community"

 The entire team at ReVIEW Talent Feedback System would like to congratulate and thank Greg for his work. 

The ReVIEW Team

Bringing Growth into Focus

3 min read

"Focus" flickr photo by toolstop https://flickr.com/photos/toolstop/4546017269 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 Richard has a problem. A year into his new job as a principal and he still hadn’t found a way to connect professional development needs to the data and reports his district had collected through teacher observation.

"Drowning under a mountain of paper" flickr photo by allispossible.org.uk https://flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/4774087006 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Not the ratings and the scores. Sure at the 10,000 ft view the numbers showed teachers needed to focus their energy on assessment practices, but Richard needed more. Using the tool provided in ReVIEW Talent Feedback System Richard downloaded all the responses to a specific indicator in his state’s framework. A quick analysis pointed out that the majority of his teachers struggled with questioning techniques.

There were so many options available to teachers. As a principal, Richard believed in trusting his teachers and allowing them to build and document their own learning path.

What Richard needed a way to track it all.

With today’s release of Version 4.1 of ReVIEW Talent Feedback you can now edit, add, and delete events. Then under these events you can associate as many forms as possible.

To edit an event name simply bring yoru cursor over the current name and click. It is that simple

Richard loves this new feature. He now creates his post-event surveys directly in ReVIEW Talent Feedback System. He can track responses and performance at whole school training and correlate this back.

Then he created an online module directly in ReVIEW Talent Feedback System. He created an event called Dialogical Reading. Then Richard made a form for each lesson in the unit.

Richard also made an event for self-directed professional development. Teachers submit goals and action steps, describe their learning plans, and share narrative reflection. One teacher even used the video upload feature to share the practices in real time.

When Richard completed his next round of walk through observations (the State mandated observations aren’t enough) the following quarter he noticed a sharp uptick in the questioning techniques the school tried to develop. His tally sheets noted more student to student dialogue, more follow up questions than original stems, and a decrease in simple Question and Response.

ReVIEW Talent Feedback System increased instructional capacity.

If you would like to learn more about how ReVIEW Talent Feedback System can improve your school reach out to us [email protected]

The ReVIEW Team

Completing Instructional Audits Using ReVIEW Talent Feedback System

2 min read


LOOK flickr photo by quinn.anya shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

 

Every school administrator would love to  get a snapshot of instructional routines used in the classroom. Afte rall we know effective practices move the needle on student performances.

What we may not know is how often these practices exist in our classroom. At ReVIEW Talent Feedback System we help school administrators gain insights through instructional audits.

This past month  ReVISION  Learning Partnership deployed ReVIEW Talent Feedback system in  Regional School District One, in the quiet Northwest corner of Connecticut. The goal was to understand what effective practices teachers use in their high school.

We created ReVISION Learning Partnership a customized form looking for 28 quality statements. These were dichotomous items (yes or no) and then a classroom observer would have write down a brief evidence statement justifying their answers.

For example one quality statement asked, "Students are engaged in tasks that allow them to apply new learning." The classroom observer would mark in review if they saw this practice and jot down a few pieces of evidence.

All of the quality statements aligned to  both the framework for effective teaching used in Regional School District and NEASC accreditation standards.  Each classroom was observed by two observers which reduced bias and increased the validity of the data.

Then using the unique reporting features in ReVIEW Talent Feedback System, and some customized statistical analysis we provided the team with a wonderful snapshot of the types of practices found in their high school.

Region One can now use this information in formulating professional development plans for the upcoming academic year. The district data team can quickly analyze the results from ReVIEW's reporting dashboard.

That is what we are about at ReVIEW Talent Feedback System, creating tools that allow a district an extra layer of data to bolster our current understanding of school wide practice Using the conclusions from instructional reviews in conjunction with with other evaluation data district leadership team can understand their school need..

Growing instructional capacity requires a focus on talent development. We are proud to celebrate our partnership with Regional School District One.

I you want to learn more about doing Instructional Audits in your district feel free to drop us a line at [email protected].

The ReVIEW Team

Version 4.0.3 Released

2 min read

After three months of our most intensive design sprints we have released version 4.0.3. Its hard to believe after much of this work there are few features to brag about. 

Most of the changes were at the information architecture level and were designed for scalability improvements. Basically all under the hood changes.

We want you to think a peak at the back end would look something like this:

We fear, and often think we see the our under the hood improvements like this:

The answer is, of course, somewhere in the middle. But we work hard to ensure school districts, universities, and education consultants who have come to rely on ReVIEW Talent Feedback System see a close to flawless system.

To a user what is under the hood doesn't matter, what you want to see is:

A smart and intuitive system that works in partneship with your district, evaluators and teachers. 

The changes in version 4.0.3 (the .o.3 are minor bug fixes) include:

  • Changes to reports-Districts wanted more charts and graphs. We gave them to your.
  • Stability Fixes for scalability.
  • Academic Year Features-As our first year winds down we wanted to maker sure we had the architecture in place so schools can have a truly multiyear platform that meets the legal archiving features. 

This will be the last major release of this academic year. We are most excited about these recent changes but we have some awesome features coming in our roadmap including:

  • Revamping of the district and evaluator dashboards.
  • Customizing and creating events.
  • Better video based coaching integration.
  • More charts and graphs including Cohen's Kappa and Intra-class correlations for inter-rater agreement.