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Evaluating students and teachers: Best practices for virtual administrators

With fewer kids on campus, it’s not time to paint the cafeteria or clean out the bookroom.

All of us are out of our norm, but we must remain focused, and we cannot leave our virtual students behind. Perhaps we can gain much-needed ground academically if we approach the current situation with efficacy and strategy. 

In that view, this article provides best practices for the virtual administrator when it comes to evaluating students and teachers. 

 

Evaluate Students

As teachers and students get in the groove of curriculum and instruction, virtual administrators can begin to monitor specific groups of students. Below is a list of categories of students and what you might do to monitor their progress.

Students Who Are Not Engaged and/or “Missing”

  • Have teachers send a list of students who have not logged in, and/or log in then disappear throughout the day. You may want to double-check the log ins for these students before getting involved – is it a technology issue or truancy issue? If no or low engagement has been made by students and/or parents, call home. Virtual teachers may need even greater support, especially as young students learn to discipline themselves to sit in front of a computer all day.
  •  Give students who are lagging a certain number of days to catch up. Tell them when you will call home again for an update in a specific amount of days.
  • Continue to check in with the teacher and get an update of improvement for the child.

Seniors

  • Schools should already have a spreadsheet of high school seniors and what they have completed and/or are lacking to graduate. Consult this list and reach out to those seniors who are not on track.
  • Ask your guidance counselor to update you weekly on the seniors who are lacking credits, grades, and/or test results to graduate.
  • Call specific seniors and their parents and develop a plan if they are not complying. Is virtual education the best option for those who are not engaging?
  • Consider sending a letter to all seniors to continue to motivate and support them during this difficult time. Some may be down about the possibility of canceled events and traditions. Let them know you care and are thinking about them.

ESE Students

  •  Have ESE teachers check in with specific students and spot check their understanding of this new modality. Are accommodations still appropriate or being met in other ways?
  • Schedule ongoing updates with ESE teachers, and ask those teachers to provide you with a written update on all of your ESE students. Pinpoint students who are performing below potential. Ask the ESE teacher to create a plan for specific students.
  • If virtual instruction is not working for a child, talk with the parent about your concerns and create a plan for success.

ELL Students

  • Ask bilingual aides to check in with specific students and spot check their understanding of their teacher’s plans for the week.
  • Schedule ongoing updates with bilingual aides, and ask aides to provide you with a written or verbal update on all of your ELL students. Pinpoint students who are performing below potential. Ask the bilingual aide to create a plan for specific students.
  •  If virtual instruction is not working for a child, talk with the parent about your concerns and create a plan for success.

Tier 2 or 3 Students/Lowest 25%

  • Have teachers and/or interventionist check in with specific students and spot check their understanding of the plans for the week. If groups are made within groups using virtual technology, do students and/or parents know how to move between groups and meetings? If not, does the district have a technology help desk or other entity that can help?
  • Schedule ongoing updates with teachers and/or interventionist, and ask those teachers to provide you with a written or verbal update on all of their lowest 25% students or Tier 2/3 students. Pinpoint students who are performing below potential. Ask the teacher and/or interventionist to create a plan for specific students.
  • Teachers and/or interventionist can and should provide interventions to Tier 2/3 students through virtual meetings just as in the traditional setting. You may need to review schedules to ensure how and when this is happening.
  •  If virtual instruction is not working for a child, talk with the parent about your concerns and create a plan for success.

Possible Retentions

  • If a student is showing that they could possibly be retained, how have we worked individually with that student to make gains? Have we scheduled time with the teacher or interventionist to discuss these students? 
  • Call parents and set up a conference to discuss possible retention and the power of the remaining time and importance of virtual instruction.

Free and Reduced Lunch Students

  • Consider having a Title I contact or paraprofessional reach out to free and reduced lunch parents who are not participating in food distribution programs. Make sure parents know about the food distribution system and how to access or reserve meals. Share when other community partners may be providing food and/or groceries for those in need.
  • Even though students are virtual, make sure parents know that federal lunch forms still need to be completed.

Homeless Students

  • Consider having a Title I contact or counselor reach out to homeless families to see if there are any needs or concerns for these families.

Students with Multiple Discipline Referrals

  • Consider having the assistant principal or dean call home to check on students who have exhibited behavior issues or received multiple referrals in the past.
  • Work with the parent and explain different Positive Behavior Support techniques that could be used in the home.
  •  Have the assistant principal or dean set up a routine call with the student to check on completed work and/or behavior. You know those students best. Do they need calls first thing in the morning or after lunch? When do they most need motivation?
  • Remind the assistant principal or dean to provide support to virtual teachers as students may have distracting behaviors and/or find difficulty in maintaining their attentiveness for many hours in front of a computer each day.

 

Evaluate Teachers 

Once teachers become comfortable with virtual teaching, you may begin to offer feedback in more areas than instruction. Remember that teachers, especially new ones, need help in other areas as well. Below is a list of ideas to help monitor teachers’ progress as well:

  • Review teacher evaluation procedures with new teachers. Remember the eval instrument is more than instruction. Professionalism and ethics are also important to point out, especially as virtual instructors will have much more access to a student in their home setting. It might be beneficial to cover what is appropriate and what is not when messaging students, etc.
  • Ask to sit in and help a new or struggling teacher make a phone call home. Give feedback on how to improve communication with parents. If students are new or teachers are new, there might be instances where a teacher and parent have never met. Relationships may be harder to solidify, so communication home will be important. 
  • Consider holding sessions on specific topics concerning virtual education – how to use specific technology platforms or how to access district resources? Listen to what teachers need and provide professional development opportunities. Recruit your curriculum and instruction experts at the district or within your school to help.
  • Spotlight innovation in an email, newsletter, or at a faculty meeting.

Administrators can self-check who they need to monitor by thinking of a typical, traditional school day. You might ask yourself – who would I typically check on first thing on a Monday morning? Whose class would I walk through first period? Which group of students would I check on during lunch? By mimicking your normal schedule, you will be sure to think about those individuals, groups of students, and/or specific teachers that might need guidance or a helping hand.

 

Beyond Evaluation

It’s also important to make “good calls” too during this time. Good calls not only mean something to the individual receiving them, but they are good for your mental health as well. If you see a child going above and beyond during an online class, give them a congratulatory call. If you see a parent putting out the correct information for the school in an online group, send them a quiet thank you note. If you see a teacher or staff member taking time to help an individual child or family, make sure to recognize them at your faculty meeting. 

 

If we stay on the offensive and learn from these challenging times, in the end, we will build an even stronger system in our efforts to provide a world-class education for all students.

 


About the Author

A. Russell Hughes is the superintendent of the Walton County School District (WCSD).  Walton County school enrollment totals 10,500 students with over 1,000 school district employees.  The WCSD office is located in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, but the county’s boundaries run from the Alabama line (Paxton, Florida) to the Florida coast (Santa Rosa Beach, Florida).  Superintendent Hughes has spent his career in education.  Mr. Hughes has worked at all levels, as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal.  He is currently entering his second term as Superintendent and has recently been named as a top 25 “Superintendents to Watch” by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA).

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