We want St. Louis Park Public School families to understand how we are supporting our teachers and ensuring both high levels of care and accountability while elevating standards for teacher development and evaluation. Our new teacher development and evaluation model, which was implemented this school year, was designed by a team of 10 teachers and five administrators from across the district. The development of the model placed a strong emphasis on elevating teacher voice and teacher leadership alongside the voices of their supervisors. In addition, we asked for student voices and perspectives, getting valuable insight from our students in SOAR (Students Organizing Against Racism) at the high school last spring.
As part of our racial equity transformation work, we recognize the importance of both shared leadership and accountability in the development of this model. The teacher development and evaluation model is intentionally grounded in culturally relevant teaching and our continued work with Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings.
Her framework defines culturally relevant teaching with the three pillars of student academic achievement, cultural competence, and the development of critical thinking/consciousness. This model incorporates these three foundational pillars and also elevates staff collaboration.
The teacher development and evaluation process has several technical components, including:
- Principals as Instructional Leaders: Our school leaders aim to provide instructional coaching and guidance to teachers to strengthen the classroom experience. Each principal has the goal of observing each teacher three times per school year.
- Teacher Leaders/Peer Coaches: Teacher leaders are peer coaches who support educators to develop and grow in their practice. Each teacher leader completes two peer observations of each teacher on their caseload.
- Learning Walks: These are non-evaluative walks designed to build the capacity of teacher leaders at each site and deepen their understanding of culturally relevant pedagogy. Teacher leaders and district instructional leaders engage in these walks, learning from what they see in the classroom and uplifting best practices.
- Rubric: Throughout the school year, teachers are meant to receive up to five opportunities for feedback on their teaching practices, with feedback directly aligned with the goals outlined in the rubric. Every three years, a teacher receives a rating on each of the 16 indicators in the rubric. Probationary teachers are rated each year until they are tenured.
- Professional development: Our district and site professional development is aligned with the learnings and insights gained from the observations, learning walks, and rubric targeting where we can improve teaching strategies and practices in a more systematic way and replicate practices we know are working effectively.
We are proud to report that our new model has undertaken its first year of implementation this school year and continues to become more deeply implemented as school leaders, teacher leaders, and staff become more familiar with it. We have trained upwards of 80 teacher leaders in deep understanding of the rubric through learning walks, and are continuing to build our capacity to ensure teachers receive quality feedback on their teaching practices.
Phil Stern is a fifth grade teacher at Aquila Elementary School and the Vice President of the Park Association of Teachers (PAT). Of his experience as a teacher and observer, he shared, “As teachers we rarely have the opportunity to experience each other's classrooms. The conversations I've been able to have with my different coaches throughout the year have always centered around my own practices and student outcomes. Without a doubt I have changed and improved my own pedagogy based on ideas and feedback I've received from my peers. I've also been lucky enough to act as an observer in other teacher's classrooms. Each and every time I have been afforded the opportunity to see my colleagues in action with their students I have been able to take something back to my own classroom and have grown as an educator from the experience.”
We believe that our new teacher development and evaluation model will help us provide the best possible education for our students. It is our hope that this model will continue to drive positive change and ensure that our students receive an academically rigorous educational experience in a culturally relevant learning environment.