This spring, PreK teacher Carolee Fucigna spoke about how educational practices from Reggio Emilia, Italy inspired the most recent revisions to Nueva's teacher evaluation system. Her presentation -- which melded her decade-long service on the oversight committee and a deep interest in Reggio Emilia -- served as the focus of May's Innovative Teacher Project Roundtable hosted at Nueva.
"Reggio Emilia practices combined with feedback over the years from Nueva's teachers, inspired me to rethink the focus of our teacher evaluation system," Carolee said after her multi-media presentation to an audience of Bay Area teachers. "Being given time to observe one another's practice, engage in dialogue about what was seen, and determine areas of strength and growth should be the heart of the system rather than scores on a rubric. "
During her talk, Carolee described the importance of articulating the values and expectations for teaching practice at Nueva as a starting place for dialogue and teacher assessment. She then contended that assessments should be framed by the Italian idea of "living in a state of constant research" rather than assessing educators through the current cultural context of rewarding "good" teachers and removing "bad" teachers. Carolee summarized her guiding perspective by quoting Dr. Carlina Rinaldi, current president of Reggio Children:
"Personal and professional development and education are something we construct ourselves in relation with others, based on values that are chosen, shared, and constructed together," Rinaldi wrote. "It means living and living ourselves in a permanent state of research."
To improve the evaluation process, Carolee and the committee refocused the assessment. It now brings to the forefront the kind of open, constructive dialogue that benefits everyone involved -- the teacher being observed, the observers, and the administrators. Everyone learns and everyone contributes to the professional development of a colleague and our teaching community. Follow up by administrators on a teacher's development plan assures that the school's resources are utilized in a more systematic fashion.
At the end of her talk, Carolee shared what she hopes will be the results of the revision, explaining that the updated evaluation process is meant to evoke regular reflection on:
• The values our school and program holds dear and hopefully lives on a daily basis
• The nurturing and facilitation of open and extended communication, professional development, and honest criticism, amongst colleagues
Carolee anticipated it will also provide Nueva's community with the scaffolding needed to continue to build meanings together around teaching practice. She also projected that the assessment process will become more of a living document, more dynamic, more open to change, and thus more valuable to each teacher, ultimately reflecting Reggio Emilia's value for perpetual research.