Evaluating teachers has always been one of the more time consuming and challenging but important duties of principals. These challenges have been heightened by adding evaluations of teachers who provide virtual instruction due to the pandemic.
Teachers providing virtual instruction may be on campus or remote. Regardless, the principal must schedule times to observe and conference with virtual teachers just as they do for teachers instructing students on campus.
Importance of Feedback
The most valuable part of any teacher appraisal process is providing quality feedback to support the professional growth of the teacher. Having conversations prior to and after each informal observation helps clarify the expectations, discuss the challenges, and determine expected outcomes.
These collegial conversations should improve the instructional process and strengthen the relationship between the principal and the teacher as well as promote less stressful formal observations.
As in previous years, districts can use T-TESS or a locally developed appraisal process. Principals can implement a variety of strategies to ensure the appraisal for a virtual teacher is successful. Some recommended strategies are:
- Provide additional training specific to virtual instruction appraisals.
- Use the pre-conference to review the goal-setting and professional development plan (GSPD).
- Be flexible and adapt the GSPD for remote instruction.
- Discuss teacher concerns and anxieties.
- Decide if the principal will observe online, in person, or both.
- Maintain high expectations for rigorous instruction.
- Determine what data will be used to gauge student engagement and student growth if the district is not going to submit a waiver for this portion of the appraisal.
- Prepare to offer guidance on instructional strategies for virtual instruction.
- Recommend virtual resources and provide technology supports.
- Encourage the teacher to reflect on virtual lessons and the impact the instruction has on student learning.
- Facilitate collaboration between the teacher and other virtual teachers.
- Provide support and relevant professional development geared to the teacher’s needs.
- Adhere to the appraisal timelines set by the district and agreed upon with teachers.
Principals must be willing to dedicate time to implement a thorough appraisal process that allows for dialogue and reflection with teachers providing virtual instruction. Implementing a well-designed appraisal process will facilitate teacher growth and build a collaborative school culture of shared ownership of student success during this unprecedented move to virtual instruction.
T-TESS Virtual Instruction Rubric
This fall, TEA provided the T-TESS Virtual Instruction Rubric for districts to use with teachers providing virtual instruction. Comparable to the original T-TESS rubric, this rubric communicates best practices for virtual instruction and guides focused observations and feedback with virtual instruction teachers.
Appraisal Waivers Available
Due to the continuing instructional challenges caused by the pandemic, TEA is allowing districts to submit waivers for all general teacher appraisal requirements if districts believe they are unable to conduct accurate and relevant appraisals, or for just the student growth requirements portion of teacher appraisals if they are unable to gather valid student growth data.
Caution is advised for districts considering submitting the full general teacher appraisal requirement waiver to TEA. Due to the abrupt closing and/or move to virtual instruction at the end of 2019–2020 school year, some teachers may have already gone one year without an appraisal. The district needs to consider if it wants two years to pass without conducting teacher appraisals and having this information available. Appraisals are valuable in making employment recommendations for the next school year. If this information is not available, the district needs to determine what will be used in place of the appraisal.
The Local Optional Teacher Designation System (LOTDS) must include teacher appraisals as part of the plan. A waiver may affect this program and the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA). Rather than seeking waivers for full appraisals, districts may consider a waiver for just the student growth requirement because of these concerns.
Building the capacity of teachers providing virtual instruction by giving them specific feedback and supports throughout the appraisal process is not a simple feat. The reward for thoughtfully planning the entire appraisal process should be quality virtual instruction that successfully impacts student learning.
Cheryl Hoover joined HR Services in 2018. She assists with staffing and HR reviews, training, and other HR projects. During Hoover’s public school career, she served as an executive director of curriculum and principal leadership, executive director of human resources, principal, assistant principal, teacher, and coach.
Hoover earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin and obtained her master’s degree from Texas State University. She is a certified PHR.
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