Campus Spotlight: Hill Intermediate School
Invest is one of the strongest professional development tools on campus, according to Scott Corrick, principal of Hill Intermediate School.
The program works to improve teaching, even when he or his staff isn’t focusing on development, which in turn helps students to improve and grow.
Mr. Corrick had an early start with Invest — Hill Intermediate was one of the pilot schools for the program. After beginning that first school year with an intensive overview of the new system, he followed up during the school year, focusing on different aspects of Invest during faculty meetings.
“We had the opportunity to play around with it a little,” he said, “and put it out in chunks.”
The result has been more quality interactions with the teachers on his campus.
“Teachers are getting more comfortable with conversations,” Mr. Corrick said. “With the old system, you didn’t have the great conversations on what good teaching was all about.”
Everyone’s aim is to improve teaching.
“Everybody wants to grow,” he said. “Everybody wants to learn how get better.”
The roadmap for improvement is the Danielson Framework for Teaching, one of the key elements of Invest. By following the framework, teachers learn how to improve their practice.
“The framework is in place, now we just have to follow it,” Mr. Corrick said. “In the end, it is all about improving instruction. What are you doing to help the kids be successful?”
The answer, according to Mr. Corrick, is working to improve teaching.
“The only thing that affects good, quality growth is good teaching,” he said.
The Invest training Mr. Corrick held on campus helped clear up a few concerns and misconceptions. One he noted was a change in terminology used in the rating system.
The term “Proficient” is a tough sell, Mr. Corrick said, explaining that, under PDAS, most teachers received the loftier-sounding rating of “Exceeds Expectations.”
Mr. Corrick said that, in Invest, earning a rating of “Proficient” is not a bad thing.
He also had to reassure teachers that it was possible to earn top ratings in Invest.
“People have the conception that you can’t get a 4,” Mr. Corrick said. “I don’t believe that.”
To get his message about Invest to his staff and show them the system was not a “gotcha,” he said he had to “be straight up” about the changes from the beginning.
“You chose the profession because you want to work with kids and help them get better,” he said he tells teachers. “We have to get these kids where they need to be.”
To get their students there, teachers have to be where they need to be, and Invest helps teachers get there.
“It is not just an appraisal tool,” Mr. Corrick said, “but a professional development tool.”
Principal Scott Corrick made training for Invest a priority from the time it was introduced at Hill Intermediate School, said Steve Roethler, an RTI-Reading teacher.
That focus helped teachers learn the system and understand how it works.
“Mr. Corrick is good about going by the book,” Mr. Roethler said. “He is good at following what’s supposed to happen.”
Last year, Mr. Corrick went through Invest really deep at the start of the year, then used faculty meetings to go through sections of Invest.
Mr. Roethler said the training paid off.
During a meeting with representatives from different campuses, Mr. Roethler felt like he had a stronger understanding of Invest than some representatives from other campuses because of the training he received.
According to Mr. Roethler, Hill’s principal also makes accountability a priority, and using Invest gives him a framework that teachers can use to see what is expected of them.
“You have to be accountable for any job,” Roethler said.
Any change is different, he said, but teachers are more positive now, and Invest has been an improvement.
Good teachers especially like it, in part because they get the opportunity to document their best practices. Using artifacts, teachers have the opportunity to highlight their best work, even if it occurs outside of a 45-minute formal evaluation.
“Artifacts are a way to show yourself off a little bit,” he said. “You can toot your own horn.”
Teachers give Invest insights
Yes, you can get a 4.
That was the message for more than 25 teachers who were in attendance at one of two hour-and-a-half-long meetings about Invest.
Attendees asked questions of teachers who had been at schools involved in the pilot program for Aldine ISD.
The teachers — Adriana Esparza of Rayford Intermediate School, Barry K. Wellman of Davis High School, Brenna Dorgan of Stephens Elementary School, Erica Anderson of Magrill Elementary School and Kathy A. Flores of Hinojosa EC/Pre-K Center — along with Dr. Selina Chapa from Human Resources who is leading the Invest implementation program, told those in attendance that 4 is an obtainable rating. However, the 4 rating is not as easy to come by as “Exceeds Expectations” in PDAS.
Ms. Dorgan shared that she had earned a 4 in a component on her previous evaluation. Her original rating on it had been a 3, but she explained to her rater the final outcome in that class after her observation and, after providing an artifact as evidence, she was moved to a 4.
Dr. Chapa explained that while the previous Aldine system rated most teachers in the top categories, students in the district were not performing at the same level, which meant that the rating system and student outcomes were not aligned.
Because the previous rating system failed to differentiate teaching performance, “we provided only the professionals with skills gaps the support they needed instead of focusing on all professionals,” Dr. Chapa said.
Invest helps administrators support teachers by using an evaluation system that is better able to accurately rate teaching performance. It can also identify where teachers can improve and can help start conversations about improving their practice at every level.
The rating system was just one of the topics discussed. Attendees asked more than 40 questions to the teachers with Invest experience, ranging from how many artifacts to collect to whether Invest ratings affect a teacher’s ability to transfer to a different school.
Mr. Wellman provided a demonstration on where to find forms for Invest on the e-Portal website. Some teachers were unaware that forms, manuals, and other information about Invest were available on e-Portal.
Questions will be compiled into an FAQ list and made available districtwide.
Teacher Voice: MacArthur 9th Grade Campus
Chris McCurry is a Biology Skills Specialist and Virtual school teacher at MacArthur 9th. He believes that INVEST has improved many areas on his campus. Each department plans lessons based on solid pedagogical strategies aligned to state standards. Classrooms utilize classroom management techniques that set high expecta-tions for student behavior. Finally, teachers en-gage students to think about the content through quality questioning strategies and discussion tech-niques.
According to Mr. McCurry, INVEST has impacted his teaching as well. He now reflects and cor-rects negative aspects of his planning, manage-ment, instruction and professional responsibilities. In planning for classes he makes a concerted ef-fort to provide coherent instruction that engages students in the content. He plans and implements formative assessment techniques he can use to address student needs and provide feedback stu-dents can use to assess their own learning.
He changed his instruction in response to the increased number of English language learners. He implemented strategies to differentiate instruc-tion and identified students that need further in-struction. He also implemented scaffolding tech-niques for English language learners to assist them with the difficult vocabulary in Biology.
On his campus, each teacher was provided a binder with one page for each component of each domain. The elements and indicators are listed for each component. The binder acts as both a refer-ence for the components of each domain and a place to keep artifacts for the summative evaluation.
Maria T. Garcia, the principal at Bussey Elementary School, said Invest is already becoming part of the school’s routine as the system helps her organize an evaluation cycle for teachers and others at her campus.
Ms. Garcia said Invest provides guidance in building a schedule that both she and teachers are comfortable with.
For formal observations, she emails teachers on Mondays to set up Friday preconferences and to request documents, such as INV2s and lessons plans. After meeting with teachers at pre-conferences on Fridays, she performs observations the following week. Written feedback is sent to teachers within 10 days after observations.
In her first year, Ms. Garcia only set up three formal observations a week, but she has been able to do five a week this year.
Teachers at Bussey Elementary also benefit from the scheduling built into Invest.
First, teachers are asked to complete a pre-conference form. Working on the INV2 form prepares them for upcoming meetings. The answers they provide create depth during the discussions, she said. The conversations with teachers are also of higher quality. The results can be seen in the classroom, as there is better alignment between what is taught and what is tested.
The collection of artifacts have also been helpful for the teachers at Bussey. They are allowed the freedom to showcase examples of high-quality teaching. Teachers use a 1-inch binder that contains a campus handbook, an Invest manual and four dividers for domains to organize their artifacts. She encourages a focus on quality.