Grading Teachers

September 7th, 2014


A recent New York Times Tech piece features the company Panorama Education, which designs and administers survey-based teacher evaluation systems. (Grading Teachers, With Data from Class, September 3, 2014). With questions that reminded me of university-level course evaluations completed by students, the system aims to offer useful, accessible data in an open-source framework, which means that schools can customize the content. From the article,

“Panorama is trying to assess how well teachers are doing by conducting scientifically valid student questionnaires that collect data about a variety of factors that might affect a teacher’s performance, from how well she conveys the material and whether she encourages interest in a subject to whether a school fosters a sense of belonging for students.”

The start-up has some powerful backers: Google Venture and Mark Zuckerberg, which I’ll admit raised my curiosity. It might seem that another standardized measure may not add innovation or value to assessment systems, but as I read about the survey’s emphasis on teachers’ interactions with kids (and not necessarily how kids in the class perform on tests themselves), I wondered if this might be a good direction:

“Teachers can dig into how they performed on a question-by-question basis, and they can monitor their performance by subgroup. The survey reports allow teachers to see if they’re connecting better with boys than with girls, or if students who have trouble with English are having more difficulty in a classroom than those who are native English speakers.”

What do you think, school librarians? Are you in a school system using Panorama? How might the topics be customized for librarians and other special area teachers?

–Rebecca Morris

November’s SLM Issue

September 3rd, 2014

Coming Up in SLM November 2014 via kwout

I always look forward to Fall. I love the leaves, the temperature, the pumpkins (and pumpkin spice lattes). Here’s something to get you excited about late Fall– the preview of the November issue of School Library Monthly!

The issue (with the Table of Contents shown in part above) features a range of useful topics for your work in the library and across the school. Visit the Coming Up site for the details. I’ve listed a few highlights here:

- I’m interested in Andria Donnelly’s piece about introducing collaboration to the school staff. This is always an area where strategies, best practices, and lessons learned are worth sharing. Whether you’re a brand new librarian, new to a staff, or just working to build some new or stronger collaborations, reading about different approaches to this process can be reassuring and helpful!

- Kristin Fontichiaro writes about artist statements and multimedia projects. As student work products evolve and vary, this approach to self-reflection and intention is something I want to learn about!

I’ve noticed artist statements more than ever lately. Here is one from student artwork in the schoolyard habitat at the Greensboro Children’s Museum (taken July 2013, Greensboro, NC):

- There are lots of intriguing topics in the November issue, but one more that I’m excited to read relates to inquiry learning. I have a feeling that I’ll be ready to recommend “Inquiry Learning: A Starting Point” (by Meg Donhauser, Heather Hersey, Cathy Stutzman, and Marci Zane) to my spring graduate students studying school library curriculum.

–Rebecca Morris

How Was It? The Return to School

August 29th, 2014

As we head into the last days of the month, many schools have completed a week or even two of the new school year. The year is still fresh, but those first few days are under our belts! For me, that’s always a relief, and after catching my breath from the intense summer course schedule, I enjoy getting back into the routine of Fall.

The cycle of returning to school is different for me in my current role as a university faculty member than when I was a classroom teacher and librarian, but the experience still feels familiar. At this point we’re two weeks in. We’ve completed the back-to-school professional development days. We welcomed students through the doors and online portals for the first time, and we greeted friends and colleagues again.

So how was it for you? Are you ready for the three-day Labor Day Weekend? And where are you setting your gaze and goals for the month of September? Here are a few topics on the docket for me now, and into the next couple of months.

- Digital storytelling across library settings: I’m teaching a graduate seminar in digital storytelling this semester. We’re reading Brian Alexander’s The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media. We’re having some great discussions about the diverse formats and contexts for digital storytelling, including in gaming, blogs, social media, and more “traditional” forms, like narrated multimedia stories.

AASL Fall Forum (October 17-18): Our school, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is hosting one of the Fall Forum Satellite Sites in October, and plans are underway! Are you attending the forum in St. Louis or one of the sites? Join us for this year’s event: School Librarians in the Anytime Anywhere Learning Landscape.

NCSMLA Conference (October 9-11): I’m presenting with two UNCG colleagues at our state library conference in October (North Carolina School Library Media Association). This year’s theme is Extreme Makeover: Evolving Libraries Edition. We’ll be getting ready this month for our session on fostering communication between school librarians and principals, including strategies for discussing budget and budget proposals proposals and communicating how your school library program aligns with school goals.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing in your library and school as the year gets underway. Share in the comments—does your school have a theme or focus for students this year? Or perhaps for the teachers or PD program? What are some library management tasks that you’d like to accomplish? What collaborations are you planning to start the year?

Image: Weird School Bus, by Kevin on Flickr. Used with a Creative Commons 2.0 License.

–Rebecca Morris