Using observer calibration to boost educator effectiveness

By Albert “Duffy” Miller, Ed.D., President, Miller Educational Consulting Services

There are many ways to improve educator effectiveness — personalized learning, timely and meaningful feedback, targeted professional development, professional learning communities — and all play important roles in developing a teacher’s skill and expertise.

But rarely does the concept of observer calibration enter the conversation. Observer calibration — the process of ensuring accuracy among observers — is often relegated to background administrative work, and the clear connection between evaluation accuracy inspiring educator improvement is ignored. It’s time for that to change.

Calibration is used frequently in reference to measurement instruments, such as scales, and specifies a process used to maintain instrument accuracy against a standard — such as weights in ounces, pounds or grams.

Educators benefit greatly from the calibration process, as observer calibration ensures accurate measurement of an observer against a specific standard of accuracy. How? Observer calibration typically includes video training and scoring, here’s how it works:

  1. Observers watch standardized and master-scored training videos of classroom instruction and score their observations based upon a provided rubric.
  2. After completing their training observation, observers receive a score which gives them insight into potential biases or challenges they hold that may inhibit their ability to provide fair feedback to educators.
  3. The observers’ scores of a teacher’s practice are compared to master scores, and the degree of accuracy is determined using statistical measures. The most rigorous calibrations use several different quantifiable measures; each measure provides a different analysis of the observer’s accuracy.1

Applied to educators and observers, there is a direct relationship between improving the validity and accuracy of observations and delivering useful feedback for guiding educator improvement.

Calibration is not norming or averaging observers’ ratings of a teacher (or video) to determine the teacher’s level of performance using the group average. Calibration also shouldn’t be confused with certification of observers’ skills. Rather, Calibration is an ongoing process used by districts to regularly assess the degree to which observers accurately interpret teachers’ effectiveness using the district-selected criteria. It builds inter-rater reliability over time, while also providing data against which inter-rater agreement can be assessed.

PowerSchool knows that the connection between authentic and unbiased observations and meaningful improvements to educator effectiveness is a powerful one. That’s why PowerSchool’s Calibration solution facilitates precise inter-rater reliability and provides an impartial, standardized process for educator observation and evaluation, empowering educators with valuable feedback that enables them to improve and grow.

Built in cooperation with nationally-recognized education partners, Teaching Learning Solutions and The Teaching Channel, Calibration provides observers with access to time-tested methods for conducting evaluations that help deliver actionable feedback to educators.

Observer calibration matters because teachers need to be confident that the administrators charged to evaluate their effectiveness meet a consistent level of accuracy when interpreting performance standards. Calibration establishes consistency among observers, and in the long run establishes trust in the observation and evaluation processes, which empowers administrators and teachers to work together to improve educator effectiveness districtwide.

1Teaching Learning Solutions (TLS) utilizes 3 quantitative measures: item accuracy, score differential, and volatility index. The TLS measures are incorporated into the TalentEd calibration platform.

TalentEd Calibration

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