“At least some of the answers to turning around our nation’s struggling K-12 public schools can be found at the nearest preschool.”
With this admittedly “counterintuitive” statement, Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, begins his recent report on teacher observation, published by the Center for American Progress. Citing “decades of experience using observation in early childhood education,” Pianta contends that two major observation systems contain important lessons for efforts to reform teacher evaluations used in K-12 settings.
“At a time of considerable urgency and demand for improvements in our nation’s schools, particularly when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of teachers, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Instead of looking to the development and implementation of new educational models and methodologies, K-12 educators would do well to learn from the lessons and experience accrued by their counterparts in the early childhood sector, specifically when it comes to teacher performance evaluation,” Pianta writes in “Implementing Observation Protocols: Lessons for K-12 Education from the Field of Early Childhood.” (Full report / Introduction and summary)
“Early childhood education has long embraced the value of observing classrooms and teacher-child interactions. In early childhood education the features of the settings in which children are served are the hallmarks of quality. These features can include health and safety considerations, the materials and physical layout of the space, and the interactions that take place between adults and children — such as conversations, emotional tone, or physical proximity. Standardized observations of these early childhood education features in turn yield metrics that are used in state and federal policy, program improvement investments, and the credentialing of professionals — all uses that K-12 education is now considering.” (more…)