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Improve Evaluation Systems; Increase Collective Efficacy; Raise Student Achievement

A teacher evaluation system should be linked to proven systems of teacher inquiry, collaboration and program implementation that empower teachers to be instructional leaders. Professional learning communities (PLCs) are among the most promising and proven elements of school culture and practice to fulfill this requirement.

What are professional learning communities? They are teams of professionals, working together to accomplish a common goal. PLCs are collaborative teams that inquire into best practices in their local context, creating new knowledge for a clearer view of reality. PLCs use that knowledge to action plan, strategize, analyze data, meet goals, celebrate, fail, learn and try again.

Saunders, Goldenberg & Gallimore (2009) won an award from Learning Forward in 2010 for their work in researching the effect PLCs have on raising student achievement. Their research evaluated the implementation of a PLC at Title I schools. The schools demonstrated increased achievement over a three-year period and achieved greater student growth as compared to schools with similar demographics that did not implement a PLC.

PLCs and Collective Efficacy

Collective efficacy is one of the strongest predictors of a successful organization. If a school wants to improve student performance, the most effective step educators can take is to improve collective efficacy (Donohoo, Hattie & Eells, 2018; Hattie, 2003). Collective efficacy has a greater effect on achievement than does a student's socioeconomic status (Ross, Hogaboam-Gray & Gray, 2004).

Jenni Donohoo, in her book Collective Efficacy (2017), presented a detailed analysis of how a community of educators can work most effectively to serve students. Donohoo defined "collective efficacy" as teachers' communal belief that they can influence student learning and achievement, with six enabling components:

  • • Advanced teacher influence
  • • Goal consensus
  • • Teachers' knowledge about one another's work
  • • Cohesive staff
  • • Responsiveness of leadership
  • • Effective systems of intervention

Donohoo (201 7) stated that "Collective efficacy is increased through collaborative learning structures" (p. 54). By contrast, collective inefficacy is cultivated through observations, evaluation cycles, over-analyzation of terms and definitions on rubrics, rating scales, point systems, ranking systems and performance categorizing.

A professional learning community (PLC) is a structured way to ensure that teachers are asking the right questions, collectively solving problems, building cohesion, learning about and from one another, setting goals, spreading their influence and creating learning environments and tasks that meet student needs. Teacher efficacy, collective efficacy, and PLCs are directly dependent upon one another. As Hattie found, collective efficacy is the number one factor in raising student achievement.

When administrators work with teachers and evaluate their ability to work in a PLC, the good teachers will only get better and the poor teachers will quit before any administrator would even have to observe them teaching. Using a PLC evaluation system provides many benefits over traditional teacher evaluation systems at increasing instructional leadership. The district, administration and teachers can benefit from a PLC evaluation system.

In particular, Donohoo has challenged us all to allow teachers to have more influence. After all, if teachers truly drive improvement, we should encourage them to have more influence. Placing the demand for teacher improvement on the administrators will not produce the desired results. Teachers need to be at the forefront of change, driving its planning, implementation and fine-tuning.

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