Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Educator Evaluation Evidence Collection & Google Drive

Though this post refers to a program in Massachusetts, the evidence collection method outlined will likely be pertinent to many school districts across the country in the coming years.

In 2012, as part of Race to the Top, my school district in Ashland, Massachusetts was one of a handful chosen to pilot the new educator evaluation system devised by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). As a pilot school we had the opportunity to be at the forefront of this new venture. My colleague, Scott Smith, and I spent a significant amount of time this past fall and spring working on our digital solution for one of the key components of the new evaluation tool: collecting evidence (aka - artifacts). We also employed support from our IT department to work out some kinks. Below are three things for you to learn from our experience:
  • The easy stuff
  • The tough lessons
  • An outline of our process
The good news for you is that we have worked out some of the kinks, and I am sharing them here. Our solution involves Google Drive, Teachpoint, templates, and PDFs. Using Google Drive allows us to create a shared portfolio that can host almost any type of file, including video. Teachpoint hosts our evaluation forms and could allow for the collection of documents. We chose not to use it for collecting documents, instead relying on links to Google Drive. Though not everyone was on board with creating digital portfolios for evidence collection at first, our well designed plan, and constant support, allowed us to implement a scheme that faculty has bought into and administration finds simple to work with.

Easy Parts
  • Using Google Drive for our cloud storage solution was an easy decision since we are a Google Apps for Education school. 
  • Choosing not to use Teachpoint for collecting evidence was a logical decision for two reasons. One, we were already headed in the Google Drive direction and two, creating a static environment for documents was deemed less valuable than the dynamic space provided by Google Drive.

Tough Lessons

It is easy to over-complicate the process, especially when you don't exactly know what you are getting into. For us this occurred two major times. Both times we were trying to anticipate user needs, and instead created headaches that haven't completely gone away yet.
  • Installing Google Drive - We thought it would be convenient for people not use to Google Drive online, to instead use the Google Drive desktop client that will sync a local folder with the online service. Instead, this has proven to be a time consuming and inefficient method for the simple process of loading evidence into Google Drive. Next time we will just show people how to click the upload button on the Google Drive page.
  • Merged PDFs - While many teachers are still doing this, it is not necessary. The idea was that the teachers would create a single PDF with the artifact cover page that is used to describe and align the artifact to the indicators, and the artifact itself. Even with a 'print PDF' option, or using a website for conversion, this was an unneeded step. Instead a simpler solution was to have the template as one document, and to have the evidence as a second document. Using the link provided by Google for the evidence, we could paste the link into the evidence collection document.

Our Finalized Process
  • Teachers create a master evidence folder with sub-folders divided into standards and indicators, all within Google Drive. 
  • Teachers share this evidence folder with their administrator(s)
  • Teachers upload evidence into the correct folder. Using Google's folder organization feature, teachers can place the same document in multiple folders at once. Therefore, if the artifact is evidence of multiple indicators at once, it can appear in all of those folders at the same time.
  • Teachers fill out a cover page for each piece of evidence. This cover page is then placed in the appropriate folder. (I've created a Google Doc version of this form so that it does not need to be an un-editable PDF.)
  • Using the 'Share' button on the actual artifact, the teacher can then grab the live link to the artifact and paste it into the cover page.
  • If needed, notify the appropriate supervisor that evidence has been uploaded and is ready to view. I prefer to do this by sending a link for the cover page to the supervisor.
Do you have questions or ideas on how this process works and could work better? Please contact me or leave a comment below. I would be happy to even talk by phone. While not every district will use this method, moving in a direction that starts to look like digital portfolios is definitely a logical step in this new era of teacher evaluations.

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