The new mandate in Virginia to make student achievement a significant part of teacher evaluations is bringing more than an infusion of test scores. It’s also changing the way classroom observations are conducted.
The scheduled or unscheduled visits from administrators have long been a cornerstone of teacher evaluations. But increasingly, principals are turning their gaze from the way teachers are delivering lessons to how well students are learning them.
Matthew Phythian, the principal at Bull Run Middle School in Gainesville, said when he started conducting observations five years ago, he would write down almost everything the teacher said in an effort to capture the whole lesson. By the end, he could even tell you, for example, “if they used the transition word ‘okay’ 25 times,” he said.
But over the past few years he has begun to pay much more attention to the students. Are they listening? Are their eyes on their teacher? Are they talking to their friends about what they are learning?