Typhani Harris | June 2014

Dance Teacher Evaluation

Last month I attended and presented at NDEO’s (National Dance Education Organization) Charting the Course: Approaches to Dance Teacher Evaluation for K-12 Dance Educators. This quick 2-day conference brought to light some concerns about the upcoming dance teacher evaluation, as well as offered a platform for like-minded educators to influence the way Dance Educators should be evaluated. Getting together with a group of brilliant educators is always inspirational, but getting together with the mission of change is even better!

The conference began with a Key Note from Stanley Rabinowitz, senior program developer of WestEd’s assessment and standards development services. He walked us through the characteristics of valid, defensible, and fair measures of educator effectiveness, how the measures apply to dance educators, and accountability vs continuous improvement.

His presentation really built a focus for the weekend by discussing our need to describe and measure best practice, how we can quantify growth, and how to ensure that the evaluation system has practice built in. He shared how to build an evaluation model that has multiple measures, that is assessment driven, and that is dynamic. He made us question the data we would collect and provided options for measuring teacher effectiveness. Rabinowitz concluded by reminding us to think long term and to not get caught up in today. This keynote set an amazing tone for the weekend to come!

In smaller groups we formed questions to be the driving force of the weekend. Some of our questions included:

  1. What are the forces that are driving and influencing the current environment surrounding dance teacher evaluation and the accompanying changes? How is that affecting dance?
  2. What criteria do we want to promote for evaluating dance educators? What constitutes a balanced/fair evaluation system for dance educators?
  3. Which strategies have been successful and which have not in developing and implementing valid and fair evaluations in dance?
  4. What student assessments do we need to develop or are already available?
  5. What resources and knowledge will it take to develop these evaluations including the student assessments we need?
  6. How do we balance the formative and summative processes in dance teacher evaluation?
  7. Should dance teacher evaluation be for development/improvement or measurement/accountability or both? Why?
  8. Who should be doing the evaluations? Are principals knowledgeable enough about dance- the content, the processes?
  9. How can we affect positive change on the local, state and national levels?
  10. How do the new Core Dance standards and the new DELTA test for dance educators help us in this endeavor?

There were multiple sessions throughout the weekend including: state perspective on K-12 dance teacher evaluation, working with the standards, empirical evidence of arts and academic achievement, district wide arts assessments, measuring student growth in dance, expectations in dance education, and mentoring for artistic engagement. One session that I really enjoyed was Kori Wakamatsu’s Dance Literacy for Administrators. She referred to her approach as a strategic ambush.

Unlike English, Math, History, and Science, subjects that all administrators have some sort of previous experience in, we as dance educators, have to pack in 12 years of missed dance education as quick as possible in order to develop administrators comprehension in dance literacy. We need to invite our administrators into our world and offer them explicit instruction on what they should see and what they should be looking for. We need to provide collaboration opportunities so that we may speak their language. We need to provide research and be proactive by getting them involved.

It is important for administrators to understand that dance is one of the few subjects that really utilizes all three domains of learning: cognitive (thinking), affective (emotional/feeling), and psychomotor (physical/kinesthetic). We do this innately and daily, and although we know the importance of dance, we must provide this foundation for our administrators so that they too know the value of dance.

I was blessed with the opportunity to sit down with the Ed Closet team last weekend, and Susan shared some of her thoughts on the upcoming teacher evaluations. She discussed the potential of the evaluations being two-fold: professional practice and student growth. As a dancer, I am concerned with how to measure each of these and furthermore how to document the data.

At this point, dance teacher evaluation for dance educators is still really fuzzy. There are so many variables involved, how do we narrow it down to what is most important, what can be measured, and what can truly be a testament of teacher effectiveness. Although none of this can be clearly answered yet, we are on the right track! And NDEO is hard at work as the national organization influencing change!

Next Week: Secrets of a Dance Teacher

So What’s the Difference? An overview of Dance Education in California vs. New York

I am excited to share that I have just accepted a dance position in New York, and as I embark on this cross-country transition, I can’t help but wonder what changes are on the horizon for me. Beyond the complete lifestyle change and my first official meeting with a real winter, I am curious as to the differences I will encounter in dance education. This article will set Dance Education in California and New York side-by-side.

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Executive Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.