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 SPED Handbook

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 The Massachusetts Child

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Your first professional evaluation

In the typical school district, teacher evaluation consists of a sequence of classroom observations, some opportunity for teachers to supply information about their professional activities during the year, and a summary evaluation at the end of the school year.

Massachusetts law requires that new teachers (less than three years employment) must be formally evaluated in each of their first three years. Instruments and procedures for evaluation are negotiated by your local association.

  • Observations may sometimes be preceded by a conference with your supervisor to discuss the class and lesson to be observed.
  • Observations should always be followed by a conference to discuss the supervisor's draft of the observation report.
  • Any conclusion that you are not meeting required performance standards must be accompanied by a written explanation of what you must do to meet the district's expectations. You must also be given a reasonable amount of time to improve.
  • Any summary evaluation should be accompanied by a conference.

Remember, your contract will address the specifics of the observation procedures in your district.

We asked some new teachers for their advice on evaluations:

"I was evaluated four times in my first year, twice by my department chair, twice by an administrator," recalls Larry David, a Lexington High School teacher. "But it just went fairly well overall, despite my nervousness. My department head commended me on my lessons with a few suggestions, such as speaking slower and pushing students with follow-up questions."

Here are some more timely tips on evaluation:

Get Organized: Try to learn as much as you can about the procedures at your school before you are evaluated. "My first year evaluation process was very positive for a number of reasons," said Elizabeth Elder, Grade 3 teacher at the Wildwood School, Amherst. "First, our principals were very organized in laying out the process for us in a memo. Then my principal met with me to review my draft of my goals for the year. After I had given her my goals in writing, along with a copy of the lesson I would be teaching for my formal observation, we set up a date. She met with me afterwards to discuss the observation, later typed up her evaluation, and gave me a copy."

If your administration is not as well organized, ask veteran teachers to brief you on their experience.

Follow Up: Write to your evaluator to thank him or her for the feedback. If your evaluation was positive, a letter provides an opportunity for you to highlight strengths and achievements the evaluator might have missed. If you have questions or complaints about the evaluation process, don't wait to contact your local association's grievance chair. He or she can provide you with help and support to keep small problems from becoming big employment issues.

You can look up contact information for your local here.

This material first appeared in the December 2001 issue of the Just for New Teachers electronic newsletter.