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Secretary's Column
By Dr. Melody Schopp
Department of Education

Teacher standards and evaluation: Transforming the conversation

In July, the South Dakota Board of Education adopted Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching as our state standards for teaching. The board’s action came at the recommendation of a 25-member work group that studied possible options over the course of the last year. For me, it represented a milestone.

I have always been passionate about teachers and the craft of teaching. The research clearly demonstrates the impact that good teachers can have on their students. And, as educators, we all recognize good teaching when we see it.

That’s why the Danielson Framework is such a powerful tool. Organized into four domains and 22 components, the framework recognizes the depth and complexity of the teaching craft and serves as a guide for teachers to fully develop their potential as professionals and to impact student learning.

Just like content standards, the standards for teaching serve as the basis for evaluation. With these standards at the center of our conversations regarding evaluation, the process takes on significant meaning for teachers, as they are required to reflect on their own practice. It pushes teachers and administrators to delve deep into the practice of teaching in order to achieve continuous improvement.

The Danielson Framework and associated evaluation system recognizes the complexity of the craft and sets a high bar for performance -- fully understanding that teaching can be a “messy” profession.

While districts are not required to use the evaluation process outlined by Danielson, we do recommend it. The process is centered on the framework and is based on rich research and collection of evidence. It offers a practical and well-rounded approach to assessing where we are at on the continuum of teaching. But be advised: The system is only effective if teachers and their evaluators are properly trained.

I know that there have been some questions out on the field regarding this topic, so I encourage you to read the Q&A that we’ve developed (available in this issue of the Ed Online).

We take the standards back to the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee later this month, and I feel confident that we will be able to answer any lingering questions they may have.

I believe these standards – the Danielson Framework – will change the way we approach teacher evaluation in a dramatic and positive way. It steers the entire conversation to one of continuous engagement and improvement in our craft.