Teachers suggest flipping the CITE tool upside down
CITE Focus Group suggests that culture and climate, professionalism top the teacher evaluation tool
CASTLE ROCK – Just about any educator will tell you that success in the classroom begins by first building a strong culture and climate amongst a teacher and his or her students.
“If you don’t have good culture and climate, nothing else works,” explained Cresthill Middle School Technology Teacher Debbie DeLong.
With this tenet in mind, as well as the encouragement from Interim Superintendent Erin Kane—who has made it a priority to rebuild the Douglas County School District’s culture and climate – the CITE Focus Group is suggesting a significant change to the Continuous Improvement of Teacher Effectiveness (CITE) evaluation tool.
In a proposal being made this spring by the teachers and administrators of the focus group, culture and climate will become the first element in the tool and professionalism will be the second.
“It is like a ladder. You can’t take out the rungs of the ladder,” Delong said, referring to the current system which places culture and climate after planning, assessment and instruction. “I really think that [due to its current placement] people have been focusing on processes, tools, words and evidence first. Culture and climate have really been an afterthought.”
“When teachers see this new system [assuming it is approved by the Board of Education in June] they are going to see culture and climate at the top,” said Saddle Ranch Elementary Kindergarten Teacher Niki Mitchell. “It may seem a bit silly, but this change sends the message that we value climate and culture. We value it for our teachers and for our students and as a district. That, to me, is an extremely positive change.”
Flipping the CITE tool is one of the biggest changes being suggested by the CITE Focus Group this year.
This is the second year the group has worked to refine DCSD’s teacher evaluation tool. As we mentioned in the first story in this series, additional teachers and school leaders were encouraged to join the process this year by the Board of Education and District leadership.
“It was nice hearing from the system – from teachers all across the district,” Mitchell said.
The group now includes representatives from every level and region, as well as special education and specials.
“I wasn’t aware that we had a focus group last year. If I had, I totally would have gotten involved in it last year as well,” Mitchell said
The group’s work hasn’t always been easy. With even more voices, there have been more points of view to consider.
“It has really been a challenge, but also a privilege,” DeLong said. “We all have so many different opinions, but working together we are really well-rounded, representing the whole district.
Instead of just picking up where last year’s group left off, the group had the opportunity to start afresh.
“We had a group of people last year that wanted to preserve that work,” explained DeLong, one of the new members on the group. “A group of us that came in this year, however, felt, ‘if something is broken, why should we put a Band Aid on it? Why don’t we really work at redoing it for everyone?’”
The group, however, found consensus on several, important issues.
“We mostly focused on what we want to see in an evaluation system. We looked at what the state uses, at what other school districts use. We know that we have some parameters because it does have to be approved by the state. We talked a lot about that and I feel like the conversations were really positive and everyone was really on the same page of what we want, which is something that is mostly a growth tool,” Mitchell explained.
In Our Next Edition of THINK: Teachers in the CITE Focus Group talk about how they hope additional changes will change the focus of the CITE tool on teacher growth.