Susan Riley | January 2014

10+ Lifehacks for the Arts Teacher Evaluation

As we approach mid-year, teacher evaluations are in full swing for many educators.  To help ensure that arts teachers are on track and staying calm in this pressure-filled system, we’ve compiled a list of 10+ lifehacks of simple, proven strategies to help manage these expectations.  This list includes both of the largest pieces of new teacher evaluations: SLOs and Professional Practices.  Thankfully, these both complement each other and can empower arts teachers when integrated together.

10+ Lifehacks for the Arts Teacher Evaluation, Education Closet

Lifehacks for the Arts List

1. Treat SLOs as an Opportunity – You get choose who, what and why (finally)! Too often, as arts teachers we’re evaluated based upon standardized test data that has nothing to do with our classes.  Student Learning Objectives enable all of us to choose what we want to focus on, who really needs our help and to share why our chosen target is important to OUR classes.

2. Think small – don’t try to target a full grade.  Focus on a single class, or group, of students – because when you teach upwards of 500+ students, a whole grade level would be an insane amount of data.  Pick just one class within a grade level so that the task doesn’t become overwhelming and you can plan effectively to make a difference.

3. Outline your whole process first: Prepare – Analyze – Implement – Reflect. Each of these areas has a specific timeline and tasks.  By compartmentalizing each task into the cyclical process, you’ll feel better about planning how to make SLOs work for you and your students.

4. Collaborate with others. These could include: similar content area teachers (all art teachers, music teachers, dance teacher or drama teachers), fine arts teacher teams (art, music, drama, and dance all on one team), or interdisciplinary teams (fine arts, grade-level or other content level teachers).  Each of these groups have their own advantages and challenges.  For instance, it’s not typical to have more than 1 art teacher in a building at the elementary level so option #1 may not be possible for this group.  But for high school teachers, it may be very possible.  What’s important here is to develop SLOs and professional goals as a team – even if it’s a virtual team.  This is a process that requires lots of different lenses, perspectives, and support.

5. Choose a Common Core Standard. Picking an ELA Anchor Standard or Math Practice will allow you to maintain the integrity of your arts area while also hitting CCSS from another critical angle.  That’s because the Common Core ELA Anchor Standards can all be applied to the arts if we treat artwork as text.  And, the CCSS Standards of Mathematical Practices pair beautifully with the Artist Habits of Mind. Alternately, choose an arts element that you’d like to focus on.  This will allow you to engage your students in multiple projects which focus on the same element.

6. Use SLOs to get the professional development you deserve. SLOs have an essential component category for teacher professional development.  This means that you must outline what professional development you need to help you support your students in reaching the selected target.  Use this to your advantage!  As arts teachers, you deserve professional development that actually matters to your content and growth.  Take this opportunity to make it know what you need.

7. Create a timeline checklist for SLO implementation to keep you on track. Sketch out the whole SLO process from beginning to end and then group these tasks by month range.  For instance, the data collection and analysis piece of the SLO process should take up to 25% of the instructional period.  So for a year-long class, this would happen from August-October. Placing these tasks in a timeline makes the process much more manageable.

8. Use a simple spreadsheet for student data tracking. Don’t use a pre-made program or complicated systems if you can help it.  You’ll spend more time worrying about and figuring out the technology than getting the work done.  Instead, create a simple spreadsheet that includes columns for student names, their baseline scores, their scores on assessments as outlined by your target, and whether or not they met the target you set.  Don’t overcomplicate a data collection system if you don’t have to!  Need more collection ideas?  Check out our SLO Pinterest Board that we are constantly updating.

9. Choose a target template.  Targets are some of the most complex pieces in an SLO.  One wrong word choice (like choosing “and” instead of “or”) could totally change whether you and your students are successful in the SLO.  If you can use a template, it will ensure that you are measuring exactly what you intend to measure.  One word of caution: you need to understand how the target template was created before you use it.  If you just plug in your own numbers and data without understanding if it actually fits, the template may be flawed.  Need some downloadable templates? Check out our SLO Guide for Arts Educators.

10. Set 3 goals for each professional practice domain.  Many districts are using the Danielson Framework for the professional practices component to Teacher Evaluation.  This is good news since these domains are all things we naturally do everyday in the arts classroom.  With these practices making up for 50% or more of teacher evaluation, we need to take as much time outlining how we plan to grow in these as we do with SLOs.  To make sure that we have as much say in this part of our evaluation as possible, select 3 ways you’ll seek out growth in each of these domains.  Choose books, videos, face-to-face or online resources to support these goals and keep them consistent across the board.  Better yet, select resources that you can use across the domains to support your goals!

Bonus: Engage in collaborative conversations with administrators 3x per year: beginning, mid-year check, and end-of-year conference.  Have a series of questions handy to keep you on track.  This helps you to build a relationship with them, helps them to be held accountable to your needs, and gives you a chance to adjust your target if needed.

To help keep these in your mind, download our free resource that keeps these strategies just a fingertip away.

Looking for more?  Give our Teacher Evaluation for Arts Educators online class a try.  Registration is open now for our February class.  This fully HLC-accredited class is available for either 3 graduate credits or 120 CPU hours and can be completed in just 6 weeks.  Plus, you’ll complete 2 SLOs by the end of the class, ensuring that the work you’re expected to complete for your job is embedded as a part of the class.  What could be better than that?

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan