Effective Supervision: Supporting the Art and Science of Teaching
Supervision has been a central feature on the landscape of K–12 education almost from the outset of schooling in this country. Witness the following comments from a 1709 document entitled “Reports of the Record of Commissions of the City of Boston” (cited in Burke & Krey, 2005, p. 411):
[It should] be therefore established a committee of inspectors to visit ye School from time to time, when as oft as they shall see fit, to Enform themselves of the methods used in teacher of ye Scholars and Inquire of their proficiency, and be present at the performance of some of their Exercises.
In the three centuries that have transpired since this proclamation of 1709, the world of K–12 education has changed dramatically. Along with changes in curriculum, instruction, and assessment have come changes in perspectives on supervision and evaluation. In Chapter 2, we briefly trace these changes to provide a frame of reference for the recommendations made in this book. Throughout the remainder of the book, we lay out a comprehensive approach to supervision as well as address the implications of our approach for the practice of evaluation.
The Foundational Principle of Supervision
The recommendations in this book are grounded in one primary principle that we view as foundational to the evolution of supervision: the purpose of supervision should be the enhancement of teachers’ pedagogical skills, with the ultimate goal of enhancing student achievement. Even a brief examination of the research attests to the logic underlying this principle. Specifically, one incontestable fact in the research on schooling is that student achievement in classes with highly skilled teachers is better than student achievement in classes with less skilled teachers. To determine just how much better, consider Figure 1.
Figure 1.1 depicts the expected percentile gain in achievement for a student starting at the 50th percentile within classrooms taught by teachers of varying degrees of competence. A student at the 50th percentile will not be expected to gain at all in percentile rank in the classroom of a teacher of the 50th percentile in terms of his or her pedagogical skill. However, a student at the 50th percentile will be expected to advance to the 58th percentile in the class of a teacher at the 70th percentile in terms of pedagogical skill. The increase in student percentile rank is even larger in the classrooms of teachers at the 90th and 98th percentile ranks in terms of their pedagogical skill. Students in these situations would be expected to reach the 68th and 77th percentiles, respectively. Clearly, the more skilled the teacher, the greater the predicted increase in student achievement. Equally clear is the implication for supervision. Its primary purpose should be the enhancement of teacher expertise.
Although it is unreasonable to expect all teachers to reach the lofty status of the 90th percentile or higher regarding their pedagogical skills, it is reasonable to expect all teachers to increase their expertise from year to year. Even a modest increase would yield impressive results. Specifically, if a teacher at the 50th percentile in terms of his or her pedagogical skill raised his or her competence by two percentile points each year, the average achievement of his or her students would be expected to increase by eight percentile points over a 10-year period.
We believe that when done well, the process of supervision can be instrumental in producing incremental gains in teacher expertise, which can produce incremental gains in student achievement. Additionally, we believe that the research provides rather clear guidance on how to enhance teacher expertise
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