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"You can observe a lot by just watching." That statement was among the more memorable of Yogi Berra’s famous malapropisms. But in it, the legendary New York Yankee actually had the makings of a great piece of advice: from actively observing anyone in action you can actually learn a great deal.
That is the philosophy behind IMPACT, the District of Columbia's new teacher evaluation system that rates teachers to a large degree on their performance during five classroom observations—three by a principal or other administrator, two by an outside "master educator," and all but one unannounced. The stakes are high: it was in part because of their classroom performance that over 200 teachers recently lost their jobs.
Despite all of the attention to student test scores and value-added in teacher evaluation (which the District also uses), the centerpiece of most evaluations is still observation—an educator dropping by a teacher's classroom to watch how she does. Yet observation can mean many things and take many forms. Various models of observation now exist—from the traditional administrator-led approach to observations by external evaluators or peer teachers or videos.
Training evaluators is immensely important to ensure fairness. What kind of training do these peer review teachers or master educators receive? How does video observation work? How can overscheduled principals have time for anything more than a "drive-by"? How often should observation occur? And, an overarching question, is the purpose evaluation or improvement, or both?
These are just some of the questions that districts must grapple with as they devise systems aimed at putting an effective teacher in every classroom. Join us August 9–11, 2011, as we explore these question with experts, Mark Simon, national coordinator for the Mooney Institute for Teacher and Union Leadership and the former president of the Montgomery County (Maryland) teachers union; Karen ("KK") Owen, director of staff development for Escambia County Schools in Florida; and master educator under D.C. Public Schools' IMPACT program, Matt Radigan. The discussion was moderated by Elena Silva , senior policy analyst, and Susan Headden , senior writer/editor for Education Sector. (Read all panelist bios here .)