Bradley County Schools principals are excited with the Project Coach Evaluation model.
The school system adopted the Project Coach model to replace the state formulated TEAM model, which was used last year.
Principals at every level are saying they can tell a vast difference in the environments at their schools over last year.
“I can see a tremendous difference in the building ... there was a constant tension in the building last year between teacher and administrator. Nothing that we were doing or that they were doing, but (the TEAM model) put everyone on edge,” Walker Valley High School Principal Danny Coggin said.
This year there is more of a collaborative spirit of helping each other for the good of the students, Coggin said.
“I’ve seen a dramatic change on the stress on our teachers for the fact that we have changed,” Lake Forest Middle School Principal Ritchie Stevenson said.
This decrease in stress has been linked to classroom observations, which are more frequent, but are unannounced and more casual than last year.
Tenured teachers are observed six times, while untenured teachers are observed eight. However, the observation times are shorter than last year’s model.
“We pop in for 10 to 15 minutes for each teacher, then we write down what we saw,” Hopewell Elementary Principal Tim Riggs said.
This is compared to an hour and a half under the state model used last year.
“It’s not to spy on teachers it’s to see what the real world is, to see what they are doing in the real world,” Riggs said.
Riggs said his teachers have liked the unannounced observations.
“It’s a little more intensive in the fact that you have to stay on it. They suggested that we do four rounds before Christmas,” Riggs said.
Riggs said the observation is still processed using a rubric, but it does not have as many elements to check off as the TEAM model’s approach.
The Coach model is more about qualitative data.
“When I think about coaches, I think about those guys that demonstrate. They show them why and how, what it’s all about, nuts and bolts — and we can do that with this model,” Coggin said. “I think we were given an opportunity with the Coach model to really sit down and see this is what drives the classroom.”
Last year, many teachers spent multiple hours preparing a lesson plan to specifically hit as many of the evaluation requirements as possible. This year teachers are able to focus more on meeting students’ needs.
“Teachers are more comfortable with it. Administrators are more comfortable with it,” Stevenson said.
Because this system uses more evaluations for shorter amounts of time, Stevenson said he feels principals are getting a more accurate picture of a typical day in the classroom.
Riggs and Coggin agreed.
“It’s our first year, but I think it is going to be a good one,” Stevenson said.
He said he is excited about moving forward with this model.
Coggin said he is excited about the evaluation model’s emphasis on backward planning.
“In other words, what are the results that you want to see, not just today but in every unit you teach? ... We’re going to say this is the goal and let’s work backward and see how we get there,” Coggin said.
The principal said this is something the school will work on implementing over the next three years.
Multiple classroom observations throughout the year also give administrators an opportunity to provide more feedback to teachers and coach them to further improve. This evaluation model requires principals to communicate with teachers about the evaluation within two days. As the principals are learning the system, Riggs said it might take more than two-day meetings with teachers for feedback, but two days is the goal. Teachers also receive feedback via emails from principals.
Coggin said he felt the principals have more flexibility with the feedback they can give under this model than the TEAM evaluation used last year.
Coggin said meeting with the teacher gives him a chance to get more context for what he saw during his observation.
The planning component is vastly different than last year’s model.
Rather than looking at one extensive lesson plan for evaluation, the principals get a better idea of how the teacher consistently plans lessons.
“We go in and we look at their lesson plan book,” Riggs said. “They will also be giving us a unit plan.”
Riggs said the model allows teachers to submit additional documentation to highlight other elements of the rubrics that may not have been seen during the evaluation. Communication with parents is one element that is observed in this way.
“It gives an opportunity to see the relationship the teachers have with the parents,” Riggs said.
Principals are still working through the best ways to complete the observations.
While teachers are not spending hours preparing one lesson, principals also have more time.
“I’m not here every Sunday like I was before. That’s huge,” Coggin said. “That was during the lesson plan part of it. ... I was spending four to six hours in here on Sundays.”
Coggin said he felt he needed to put a lot of time into going over the lesson plans since he knew teachers were spending so much of their own time on them.
Coggin said the new evaluation system gives a better use of time.
Coggin said he is grateful for the Bradley County Board of Education choosing the Coach model.
Riggs said a main reason the principals wanted the new system was to change the tense environment the TEAM model had created.
Many principals from the district went to an informational meeting about the Coach model and liked what they heard.
“It gave us a little more information, it seemed to be more friendly (than the TEAM model),” Riggs said. “We talked to teachers, and explained it to them and it was very positive.”
Former Michigan Avenue Elementary Principal Robert Brittingham has also continued with the school system through an extended contract to train principals on the new model. Bradley County Schools is benefiting from the fact the Coach model was piloted last year by Hamilton County. Observations count for 50 percent of the overall observation. The other 50 percent is determined by predetermined factors. A portion of this score comes from test scores, and teachers are also able to pick from a list of other factors.