New from Diane and Colleagues! Evaluating ALL Teachers of English Learners and Students With Disabilities

We are very proud to congratulate Diane Staehr Fenner and her colleagues Peter Kozik and Ayanna Cooper (also featured on this blog) on their new book about teacher evaluation and special populations!

How the Book Came to Be

Evaluating ALL Teachers of English Learners and Students With Disabilities: Supporting Great Teaching (Corwin, 2015) is the first book of its kind in the field. Its goal is to ensure more equitable teacher evaluation of all teachers who work with diverse learners. The book grew out of a project from the American Federation of Teachers examining the impact of teacher evaluation on all teachers who work with teachers of English Learners (ELs) and students with disabilities (SWDs), an issue that is still under the radar and lacking in research despite increased use of teacher evaluation systems around the country – which typically do not yet reflect the strengths and unique needs of special populations of students.

The original project, intended to start conversations about diverse learners not typically considered in the evaluation process, brought together veteran educators from New York and Rhode Island to discuss complex topics such as:

  • how to evaluate all teachers of ELs and SWDs fairly
  • what considerations need to be incorporated so that evaluation rubrics reflect expertise needed regarding special populations
  • the importance of the pre- and post-conferences when discussing targeted and differentiation instruction.

After the project concluded, Diane and her co-authors determined this innovative concept warranted its own publication. Corwin, the co-publishers of Advocating for English Learners: A Guide for Educators, felt the same way.

(For other related resources, see our earlier post on evaluation and the Common Core, as well as this AFT policy brief also stemming from the project that summarizes the conditions needed for all students to be effective learners in general classrooms.  You can also learn more about the AFT project from the new book’s foreword, written by Melanie Hobbs and Giselle Lundy-Ponce of the AFT.)

Features of the Book

This book, which is aligned with and applicable as a companion to any teacher evaluation system, is designed for evaluators, teachers, professional devel­opers, administrators, and policymakers at all levels in PreK–12 education who are interested in strengthening the implementation of teacher evaluation systems to include all learners. Its practical tools include:

  • Four principles for inclusive teacher evaluation of diverse learners that are compatible with the Danielson and Marzano frameworks
  • Sample specialized “look-fors” that evaluators can use and adapt to recognize effective teaching of ELs and Students with Disabilities
  • Strategies for coaching teachers of ELs and students with disabilities who need more support reaching these learners
  • Concrete tools for teachers as well as evaluators such as case studies and practical action plans

The book can be used at the school, district, and state levels to describe and discuss the teacher evaluation process in school, faculty, team, and grade-level meetings in order to examine practices for reaching all learners, including ELs and Students with Disabilities. For example, a collaborative learning team could use it at the school level to examine the district’s teacher evaluation policies and add in considerations for all teachers of ELs and Students with Disabilities. Similarly, a district’s ESL Director could use the book to re-evaluate policies that impact student instruction as well as to advocate for increased collaboration and co-teaching to better support ELs.  A school administrator could use the book to identify and develop common benchmarks with teams of teachers so that all educators are speaking a shared language around evaluation that is inclusive of all learners. In short, its applications are limitless!

The introduction states:

Evaluators and teachers need to understand the complex concepts of culture and second language acquisition as well the principles of universal design for learning and the use of accommodations that might be apparent in classrooms that include these learners. At the same time, evaluators must be aware of the value of collaboration and professional coteaching relationships for these student populations in the teacher evaluation process. Without these central understandings, evaluators cannot adequately evaluate the teaching of diverse learners they witness (Staehr Fenner, Kozik & Cooper, pg.1)

The book’s eight chapters frame evaluation issues separately for teachers of English learners and teachers of Students with Disabilities and also develop commonalities between the two groups in terms of characteristics shared by effective teachers of both groups of learners. The first three chapters prepare a solid foundation for readers in recognizing the urgency to effectively teach these diverse learners. Chapters 4-7 highlight a deep examination of each of four principles of inclusive teacher evaluation, and Chapter 8 focuses on embodying the four principles through the coaching of teachers of diverse learners.

Sneak Peek: Four Principles of Inclusive Teacher Evaluation

Four principles frame the book and offer a basis for sample look-fors and questions evaluators can use so that they can recognize effective teaching diverse learners when taking part in teacher evaluations. Teachers can use the sample look-fors in order to be aware of their evaluation criteria and engage in meaningful conversations with their evaluators around reaching all learners. The four principles are intended to change practices by holding all teachers – not only the ESL or Special Education teacher – accountable for sharing the responsibility to teach ELs and Students with Disabilities. The four principles and their definitions are listed below.

PrincipleDefinition
1: Committing to Equal Access for All LearnersEducators are aware of and adhere to the laws and to the precedents set in numerous court decisions regarding full and equal access to public education for all students. Educators describe diverse learners’ full access to the curriculum and the adaptations for unique learners an observer can expect to see so that all students are included in learning.
2: Preparing to Support Diverse LearnersEducators demonstrate their knowledge of individual student backgrounds as well as the strengths and advantages student diversity brings. They articulate rationales for using appropriate instructional strategies to support diverse learners so that every student will be treated as a valued individual capable of learning.
3: Reflective Teaching Using Evidence-Based StrategiesEducators’ classroom instruction embodies the tenets of Universal Design for Learning. Instruction is individualized, student-centered, varied, appropriately challenging, standards-based, and grounded in evidence-based practice. Educators build instruction around their diverse students’ unique strengths, challenges, backgrounds, experiences, and needs.
4: Building a Culture of Collaboration and CommunityEducators focus on professional relationships and connections to culture and community in the service of all students. They work toward establishing a community that is based on collaboration among educators, students, caregivers, families, neighbors, and other relevant groups. They work cooperatively, communicate regularly, and share resources, responsibili­ties, skills, decisions and advocacy.

Sample Look-Fors for All Teachers of English Learners

Sample look-fors are provided for each of the four principles for: (1) all teachers of ELs, (2) for all teachers of Students with Disabilities, and (3) for all teachers of both groups of students. The look-fors are intended to be adapted by schools and districts to be reflective of their unique contexts.

For Principle 1, Committing to Equal Access for All Learners, some sample look-fors for all teachers of English learners include:

  • Articulates an understanding of laws & policies regarding ELs’ educational rights and adheres to these laws & policies in providing appropriate instruction
  • Aware of what ELs’ home language(s) are and their literacy skills in their home language(s)
  • Knows ELs’ levels of English language proficiency and what the levels mean for instruction and assessment
  • Articulates types of language support services ELs receive at the school
  • Identifies desired instructional outcomes for ELs based on content and ELD standards
  • Describes how instructional materials for ELs at different levels of English language proficiency (ELP) are chosen, created, or adapted

We’d love to hear your responses to the book if you pick up a copy – feel free to comment here!

Share My Lesson. For teachers, by teachers.

National Education Association. How Educators Can Advocate for English Language Learners.

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