DOs and DON’Ts for determining professional responsibilities ratings

(Cross posted at

No matter which teacher practice evaluation instrument a district is using, now is the time of year when educators are taking a look at the standard or domain dealing with Professional Responsibilities (Standard 1 in McREL, Domain 4 in Danielson, Domains 3 and 4 in Marzano, and Standard 6 in Stronge).

Causing anxiety for supervisors and teachers alike, this is the “backstage” work of teaching — very little of it can be seen when one visits a classroom to conduct walk-throughs or observations. This is an evaluation area dealing with participating in the professional community, leading and collaborating, and practicing in an ethical manner. For many years, teachers have been evaluated on these criteria in a binary fashion: satisfactory or not. Now, state legislation requires the criteria to be examined and rated on (minimally) a 4-level rubric.

The problem is most of the models for evaluation systems are rather generic when it comes to describing a teacher’s professional responsibilities. In schools where the rubrics have not been further developed to provide concrete local exemplars of effective and highly effective practice, both supervisors and teachers may be perplexed about what constitutes enough data for analysis and exactly what those data represent.

Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts for both teachers and evaluators to keep in mind:

  • DON’T make the Professional Responsibilities Standard all about the collection of lots and lots of artifacts. This leads to the “shopping bag” syndrome where teachers have so little guidance, they throw massive numbers of documents into shopping bags to bring to their end-of-year conferences. Or worse, supervisors confuse highly effective practice with enormous quantities of paper.
  • DO select several thoughtful and meaningful examples of professional responsibilities that represent a pattern of practice throughout the year and consider how they positively impact student learning experiences.
  • DON’T forget that ratings of “highly effective” shouldn’t be unattainable. Keep in mind that the rubrics for most models seek extensive practices, demonstrations of leadership, and meaningful contributions in order to achieve a highly effective rating.
  • DO keep these standards in perspective. Both “effective” and “highly effective” professional practices result in positive learning environments for students.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are a tremendous number of teachers that put forth mighty efforts on behalf of their students. When it comes time to evaluate their professionalism, those teachers’ efforts should be acknowledged and honored.