Posts Tagged ‘feedback’

Coach's Corner: Book Review of Get Better Faster

We Get Better Fasterall know that teaching is hard, but being a new teacher can sometimes seem downright impossible. Fortunately, Paul Bambrick-Santoyo has laid out a critical tool for driving the professional growth of new teachers in his latest book, Get Better Faster: A 90-Day Plan for Coaching New Teachers.

The Chief Schools Officer for High Schools and K-12 Content Development at Uncommon Schools, Bambrick-Santoyo has become a leading figure in school leadership, professional development, and data-driven instruction. In Get Better Faster, Bambrick-Santoyo lays out a compelling case for how school leaders, administrators, and coaches can guide new teachers to develop their instructional practice efficiently and effectively, making an immediate impact on the lives of their students.

In focusing on new teacher quality, Bambrick-Santoyo recognizes the immense power teachers have in shaping the lives of their students as well as the corresponding responsibility for coaches to guide their teachers to success. Across the nation however, Bambrick-Santoyo notes:

Teachers aren’t receiving much coaching. As a consequence, educators are very rarely asked to practice the micro-skills that will make them better at teaching–especially not under the supervision of an expert who can help them get better on the spot. Unlike soccer players, actors, or doctors, teachers tend to have to learn on their own.

It should be as no surprise to know that many U.S. teachers leave the profession within their first few years of teaching, often in response to the lack of support needed to feel and be successful.

Get Better Faster is built off of the guiding concept that what is actionable is “practice-able” and therefore able to respond to effective coaching.

Bambrick-Santoyo begins by identifying and unpacking three core principles of coaching:

  1. Go Granular: break teaching down into discrete skills to be practiced successively and cumulatively.
  2. Plan, Practice, Follow Up, Repeat: Coach a teacher through effective practice.
  3. Make Feedback More Frequent: Make the most of every observation by increasing the frequency of feedback.

The text then moves into a detailed scope and sequence for rapidly improving teacher practice. Bambrick-Santoyo outlines how to support teachers with classroom management and rigorous instruction by identifying a prioritized list of key action steps with guidance on when to use the strategy, what it looks/sounds like, and scenarios for practicing. For example, the scope and sequence for classroom management begins with “routines and procedures 101” then scaffolds up to using a “strong voice”, giving clear directions, and actively scanning the room. For instructional rigor, the sequence guides leaders through coaching on lesson planning, use of exemplars, meaningful independent practice and methods for checking for understanding.

Like his prior publications, Get Better Faster is full of strong real-classroom examples, recommendations for implementation, printable resources and a thorough video library of great coaching in action. Leaders across the country working with new teachers will be well-served by the expertise Bambrick-Santoyo has captured in this book and many students will be grateful for their doing so.  

We have used the concepts and resources in Get Better Faster throughout our work with many clients including the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, New York City Department of Education, and DREAM Charter School. For more information about those projects, visit

Designing Evaluation Frameworks with Development at the Core – Part I

Encouraged by Race to the Top and the Department of Education’s ESEA waivers, teacher evaluations moved into the education policy limelight during the last decade. Dozens of states updated antiquated systems–usually nothing more than a checklist of low-impact items–into multiple measure approaches with student achievement a preponderant component.

While this was a critical first step, too many frameworks failed to prioritize teacher development, becoming compliance exercises for school leaders. Fortunately, innovators across the country are re-imagining the design and implementation of evaluation frameworks into evaluation and development frameworks.

Over the next few months, we will share examples of these innovations from various partners and leaders in the field. In our first post on the topic, we share how two school systems are using frequent, unannounced observations to drive teacher development.

The Power of Frequent Observations

Observations have historically been rather formal exercises, often with scheduled pre- and post-conferences designed to provide teachers and administrators with dedicated time to plan for and then reflect upon a lesson. While there is immense value in these face-to-face interactions, they come with limitations. The heavy time burden for scheduling and completing these meetings limits the frequency in which they can occur. Often, administrators will only be able to visit one to three times in year, reducing the impact of their feedback and diminishing their ability to provide meaningful follow-up support. Announced observations also increase the opportunity for a lesson to be less reflective of a teacher’s true daily practice.

Many school systems across the country are taking a different approach to observations:

The Teaching Excellence Framework is used by more than a half-dozen independent charter schools in Delaware as part of the state’s educator evaluation regulation (Chapter 12, subchapter VII, Section 1270(f)) that allows LEAs to apply to implement an alternative teacher evaluation system. The framework was designed with frequent lesson observations at the heart of the overall plan for teacher development. Observations are 15-20 minutes in length and occur at least 8 times throughout the year. Following each observation, the observer utilizes the Teaching Excellence Rubric to assess the evidence in the lesson. A face-to-face debrief conversation occurs within one week in which the teacher and school leader determine concrete, actionable next steps. As a result, 95% of teachers surveys reporting feeling ‘positive’ to ‘very positive’ about the shift to the Teaching Excellence Framework. You can learn more about the Teaching Excellence Framework here.

Understanding the importance of excellent teachers, in 2014 the DREAM Charter School in New York City set out to revamp their system for teacher evaluation and recognition. Recognizing their teachers wanted more frequent feedback, the design committee at DREAM developed a system that would include:

  • Five unannounced observations throughout the year in which a teacher’s manager or a secondary observer determine ratings on the DREAM Observation Rubric
  • Bi-weekly unannounced observations in which a teacher’s manager provides feedback and direct support, including real-time coaching (no ratings)

All observations are followed by coaching conversations focusing on strengths and growth areas of the teacher’s practice as well as instructional next steps. Following the first year of implementation, one teacher praised the approach noting “it gives teachers clear take aways and next steps” while another said “it is streamlined [and] it pushes for development.” To learn more about DREAM Charter School, you can visit their website here.

What are other innovations around observation frequency? Add your ideas and/or experiences in the comments section below.