Principal Implementation of the State Model Evaluation System

Tips, Tools, and Strategies for Supporting Teacher Practice

The Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) traveled across the state to learn from pioneering principals who have adopted the State Model Evaluation System and brought back their most powerful tips, tools, and strategies, including:

  • How to creatively schedule and protect time to conduct multiple observations of all teachers
  • Tools for conducting efficient walk-throughs
  • Strategies for delivering frequent feedback tied to the Colorado Teacher Quality Standards
“If a district is not utilizing one of the state-provided technology tools, consider creating a written or digital template, or web-based document services that can be used to both make and share teacher observations.”

pdf_16x16 Download all of the tips, tools, and strategies.

Over the last three years, CEI worked with 13 districts in the Colorado Integration Project focused on implementing new standards, assessments and evaluation. Through this work, we found that principals are the linchpin of the new teacher evaluation system and are essential for the success of the system as well as the professional growth and development of teachers. To support their role in this process, principals must have the necessary tools and strategies for implementation.

Why are principals the linchpin?

In focus groups, teachers report that they primarily receive feedback and support from their principal, but the frequency and quality of feedback are limited by principals’ time, coaching ability, and content knowledge. In a recent survey of educators, teachers were asked what sources of information made them feel more invested in initiatives related to evaluation, standards and assessments. They were more likely to select principals than any other source, including other teachers, their union representatives, district staff or state agencies. This finding suggests that teachers view their principals as a trusted source of information and that principals really do have the power to ensure sound implementation of the new evaluation system.

Despite this trust, however, teachers still report inconsistent opportunities to grow and learn from their principals. In fact, only 32 percent of teachers report that they receive feedback more frequently under the State Model Evaluation System than they did with their prior system. One in five teachers reports not have meaningful opportunities to confer with the school principal about teacher practice. Although teachers receive feedback and support from multiple sources, principals are on the front line of the effort to help educators grow professionally. Therefore, we must support principals in this endeavor so that they can have the greatest impact on teacher practice and, ultimately, on students in classrooms.

How were principals selected?

CEI’s selection strategy focused on principals from the 13 Integration Districts with varying size and location that piloted the State Model Evaluation System. To identify the principals from this pilot group, we used teacher focus groups; recommendations from administrators, Integration project managers embedded in districts and the San Juan BOCES, and teacher leaders from 27 pilot districts; our our partners at CDE; and our own experience working in the field.  The principals chosen represent elementary, middle, and high schools, and one principals leads a K-12 district.

Principals spotlighted:

Curtis Garcia is the principal of all K-12 students in Centennial School District, which has 187 students, 18 teachers and no assistant principals.

Lanny Hass is the principal of Thompson Valley High School (TVHS) in Thompson School District. TVHS has 1,250 students, 80 teachers and 30 additional staff, including three assistant principals.

Chris Hinger is the principal of Pagosa Springs Middle School (SMS) in Archuleta School District. PSMS has 423 students, 30 teachers and one assistant principal.

Laurie Kloepfer is the principal of Florida Mesa Elementary School in Durango School District. Florida Mesa has 350 students in grades PreK-5, 31 teachers and certified staff, 12 classified staff and no assistant principals.

Karen Lunceford is the principal of Bayfield Middle School in Bayfield School District. Bayfield Middle School has 325 students in grades 6-8, 21 teachers and three additional staff. 

How can principals use these profiles?

In Colorado, principals are expected to be instructional leaders and to evaluate all teachers every year, which places great responsibility on the principal to ensure teachers are improving. The implementation tips, tools, and strategies document how principals manage their time to observe teachers more frequently and provide feedback and support. These resources are meant to provide principals with increased awareness and access to ideas, tools, and connections to colleagues as they seek to better support teachers.

While the principals featured are experienced with the system, they are still learning and practicing new strategies. These strategies provide a starting point for other principals beginning this work and serve as a complement – not a replacement – for high-quality training on the evaluation system, leadership, management, or any aspect of a principal’s multifaceted job. They do not cover the 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation focused on measures of student learning simply because principals’ practice with this aspect of the work is less mature.

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