YES Prep is continually working to maximize student achievement. As part of this effort, we are piloting a new teacher evaluation method, called Track 2, which results in more immediate feedback for the teacher to implement and provides a more holistic evaluation of the teacher’s semester. The pilot began at YES Prep Southwest and has now become an option for all eligible teachers across the district.
Both Track 1 and 2 are part of YES Prep’s Teacher Continuum. The Teacher Continuum aligns teacher compensation and career progression to a teacher’s performance in the classroom and on campus, which emphasizes YES Prep’s belief that teachers grow over time and that keeping talented teachers in the classroom will drive student achievement.
On Track 1, a teacher is observed by his/her evaluator a set number of times throughout the semester. For each evaluative classroom visit, the observer, usually a Dean of Instruction, types notes and provides scores for the teacher on YES Prep’s rubric. Then, the teacher and evaluator meet to debrief the evaluations in a scheduled one-on-one meeting. At the end of the semester and school year, evaluators average the observation scores, and those scores are used to determine whether the teacher will gateway, or move to the next level of the Teacher Continuum.
In Track 2, evaluators observe more frequently and provide in-the-moment feedback so that the teacher can implement the feedback for the next class period or day. Additionally, the evaluator records a few notes about the conversation and the teacher’s key strengths and areas for growth in an online portal, so teachers can reference the feedback later. At the end of each semester, evaluators score the teachers holistically on the rubric, reflecting the totality of their observations throughout the semester.
This year, teachers with experience at YES Prep were given the option of electing Track 1 or 2 for their evaluations. At three campuses, teachers who were new to YES Prep were also given the opportunity to opt in. Of all teachers who were eligible to choose Track 2, 79% opted in. At the campuses where new teachers were given the option, 93% elected Track 2.
One strength of Track 2 is that it shortens the loop between observation and impact on student outcomes. For example, a Dean of Instruction (DoI) might observe that a group of students is not distributing an integer and can coach the teacher to reteach the concept in the moment. “This method of feedback is about helping a teacher make immediate tweaks that will have an impact on student learning,” said Kyrlyn Chatten, Director of Instructional Leadership. At the same time, the observer is thinking about the long-term trajectory of feedback and how it aligns with the teacher’s goals for student achievement and Continuum placement. Track 2 has also shifted the focus of one-on-one meetings between the Dean and teacher from debriefing an observation that may have happened a few weeks before to coaching around planning or analyzing student achievement data.
Another benefit of Track 2 is that it releases DoIs from the pressure of recording data on all parts of the rubric. Because she’s spending less time typing and scoring observations, YES Prep East End DoI, Megan Gibbs, feels that she can focus on key areas for the teacher. “Since I’m seeing the teacher more frequently, I can track their growth more accurately,” she said.
One of the largest benefits of Track 2 has been the impact on the relationship between the teacher and the coach. “I think it has driven more meaningful conversations between Jenn [a coach] and me,” said Matt Graham, a creative writing teacher at YES Prep Southwest. Graham reports that the shift to Track 2 has reduced his anxiety about the observations and has helped him feel that he can be the laid-back teacher he is. “Under the old system, I’d get evaluated every so often and I’d freak out about the numbers that were low since they were written in stone. Jenn and I would spend our time troubleshooting those indicators. Now, our conversations are a lot more strength-focused and less like damage control.”
Omar Tariq, a physics teacher at YES Prep Southwest, experienced both Track 1 and 2. He remembers over-preparing for his scheduled full observation on Track 1 because it was heavily weighted toward his semester score. “There’s so much emphasis on the full observation that it’s kind of overwhelming. In Track 2, because you’re observed so frequently, it’s less heavily weighted. And because you don’t know when it’s coming, you are limited in your ability to prepare for your full observation. It ends up being a more honest reflection of what a typical lesson looks like in your class.”
Some teachers still prefer Track 1 because it is important to them to have concrete data points over time. “For some of my new teachers, Track 2 feels a little nebulous. They need number benchmarks to ground them and so they can more concretely track their progress,” Gibbs said. Additionally, individuals prefer to receive feedback in different ways. “There are some teachers who always want immediate feedback, but there are other teachers who don’t know what to do with it right then and need a little bit of time to process,” Gibbs said.
“Having a choice [between the tracks] this year means that teachers can weigh what is most important to them,” Chatten said. Chatten’s team is in the process of analyzing data from the pilot before it makes any decisions about next year. “We are continually looking to refine our practice and sharpen our eyes,” she said.