choral responses—Serena makes sure
the rubric for that teacher, drawing
sense they’re making steady, measurable
Michelle has an attainable goal. This
the information for it not from one
progress, their workplace satisfaction
focus on key action steps cuts through
observation, but from the completed
soars, and their performance greatly
the confusion that an elaborate rubric
observation tracker that she and the
improves (Amabile & Kramer, 2011).
might have created and provides a clear teacher built together week by week.
Coaching makes teachers great.
The most important part of this
debriefing, however, wasn’t when
Serena identified the action step
Michelle should take. It took place
when she and Michelle practiced the
action together. Practice is an essential
Serena and the teacher then compare
their completed rubrics and settle on a
final evaluation, including setting three
major professional development goals
for the teacher for the following school
Over the past 10 years, with my fellow
administrators at Uncommon Schools,
I’ve had the chance to coach hundreds
of teachers in a host of schools, many of
which, like Vailsburg, serve low-income
students. We’ve seen teachers, in just
2–3 years, achieve the kind of results—
component of developing great teachers.
on the state test, the SAT, and advanced
Great coaches don’t just talk about
what throwing a ball might feel like;
they coach their players to throw a ball
with correct technique again and again.
Feedback and evaluation won’t change
real classrooms unless teachers build the
skills needed to make a change.
To improve the team,
you don’t study
you go out and
placement exams—that are normally
seen only from master teachers.
When teachers see the concrete
steps they must take to improve their
practice, and when they can continually
practice skills connected to those steps,
transformational success comes within
Coach for Growth—
Not for Scores
To improve the team, you don’t study
the scoreboard; you go out and practice.
Nowhere is this focus on improvement
Considering the limited time educators
clearer than in the kinds of guidance
and resources that teachers take away
from debriefing meetings with their
administrators. Instead of receiving a
score, Michelle receives a new goal to
In a very real sense, teacher evalu-
ation at Vailsburg flows naturally
from Serena’s coaching efforts. And
because the main focus is on coaching,
debriefing meetings center less on
have to do everything we must do, let’s
ask ourselves how much time we’re
spending looking at the scoreboard and
how much we’re spending in practice.
We won’t start winning until we do. EL
master—and the knowledge that within where a teacher falls on some measure
the next week she can and should make than on how well that teacher is
growing, adjusting, and developing the
At each meeting, Serena updates
her observation tracking form, the
spreadsheet of the skills the teacher in
Making Teachers Great
question has mastered and the ones he
What would a shift from a scoreboard
or she is still working toward (see fig. 1, mentality to a coaching mentality in
p. 29). She shares this information
evaluating teachers mean? For one
with the teacher as she records it and
thing, it would sidestep many chal-
sometimes sends a follow-up e-mail
lenges that plague other evaluation
reviewing what they discussed at the
systems, such as judgments based on
Amabile, T., & Kramer, S. (2011). The
progress principle: Using small wins to
ignite joy, engagement, and creativity at
work. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business
Danielson, C. (2002). Enhancing student
achievement: A framework for school
improvement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Marzano, R., Frontier, T., & Livingston, D.
(2011). Effective supervision: Supporting the
art and science of teaching. Alexandria, VA:
nonrepresentative teaching perfor-
This is not to say that Serena skips
mances, evaluations relying on criteria
summative assessments altogether.
that can’t be assessed through a few
Twice a year, she fills out a complete
observations, and resentment among
report of each teacher’s performance,
faculty. More creative energy would
using a rubric as an evaluation tool.
be spent on classroom improvement.
Each teacher first uses this rubric to do
Research into motivation indicates that
a self-evaluation. Serena also completes when workers—teachers included—
Paul Bambrick-Santoyo (pbambrick@
uncommonschools.org) is managing
director of Uncommon Schools–North
Star in Newark, New Jersey, and the
author of Leverage Leadership: A
Practical Guide to Building Exceptional
Schools (Jossey-Bass, 2012).