TPEP Reflections: My Switch from Comprehensive to Focused

Education in Washington State, and everywhere in the country really, seems to be in almost a constant state of flux. One of the biggest adjustments teachers and administrators have made over the past couple years is to the introduction of a new evaluation system: Teachers/Principals Evaluation Project (TPEP). I’ve spent hours in TPEP trainings and discussions over the past 24 or so months, but even so, I’ve learned quite a bit reviewing the background information and purposeof the project on the TPEP website, something I highly encourage WA State teachers to do as well.

The purpose of my blog today, however, is not to give an overview of what TPEP is, or even discuss the multiple teacher evaluation rubrics available to school districts (we use CEL 5D+). Instead, I’m going to share something that has recently become quite relevant in my professional life, my two biggest reflections/understandings after making the switch from a comprehensive to a focused plan.

The timeline/requirements are different. Of course I expected differences in requirements, but it was interesting to me how these differences also impacted the timeline of my evaluation experience. During the 2014–2015 school year, I was finishing up my final year as a provisional employee in my district. Because of it being my third and final year with that status, I was required to have an additional 30 minutes of observation (90 minutes total). That differed from the required 60 minutes of observation (conducted during at least two separate episodes) of comprehensive (not third year provisional) and focused plans.

Also, during my two years of comprehensive, I attended an additional meeting with my evaluator half way through the year to touch base on my progress with a formal progress report. This meeting was well worth my time, as it was helpful to see exactly which criteria my evaluator had evidence for, and where I was trending (not observed, unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, and distinguished) for each. From there, I could focus my artifact submissions and plan my observations to ensure that my evaluator was given or observed everything necessary to hit the necessary criteria.

Completing comprehensive first was helpful. This is most definitely a matter of opinion, but one that I’ve given considerable thought to. I’m thankful to have completed two years on the comprehensive plan as my introduction to TPEP. As with most new initiatives, TPEP was rolled out over a three year period. Initially, only provisional and probationary teachers were evaluated with this new process, so I hit the ground running with the roll-out. Now that all teachers are being evaluated with this plan, I’m finding that my two years of experience is a helpful resource to my teammates and colleagues who are just now starting.

Furthermore, going through the process twice, where I was required to provide evidence (either through artifacts or observations) for every single criterion, provided me with the opportunity to really “get to know” the CEL 5D+ rubric. This experience gave me a 30,000 foot view, if you will, of the entire process and each of the five dimensions and also helped me this year when deciding which criteria to hone in on during my focused evaluation process.

New initiatives can certainly be stressful and uncomfortable, especially when learning about and implementing them takes time, something that we already have so little of. The saving grace of adjusting to this change, among the many others we’ve recently endured in education, is that it truly has improved my practice.