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The TNTP Core Rubric in Action

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By David Malbin

This post was originally published on the TNTP Blog.

Back in February, we introduced the TNTP Core Teaching Rubric, a radically simplified classroom observation rubric that follows the two guidelines we laid out in Fixing Classroom Observations: Observations should assess what’s being taught, in addition to how it’s being taught, and rubrics need to go on a diet. TNTP Core takes a slimmed down approach to observations, by prompting observers to answer just four essential questions about what’s happening in the classroom. 

The best part of the TNTP Core is that it’s built for sharing. Anyone can download it and use it for free under a Creative Commons license, and users can adapt it in whatever ways they feel will work best in their school or district. Recently, we’ve made one such modification—shared with us by ReNEW Charter Schools in New Orleans—available for download alongside our original version (keep reading for more details). 

A few months after the release, we wanted to know: How are educators using TNTP Core? Are they finding it helpful as they implement evaluation tools and get teachers up to speed on the Common Core? And how—if at all—are they modifying it to meet their needs? 

So we asked. Between the rubric’s launch in February and mid-April, 1,260 users downloaded the tool. We surveyed them asking for their feedback, and 147 people responded—including teachers, school and district leaders and coaches from across the country. These responses represent only a small sliver of the whole pool, but they give us an anecdotal sense of how the rubric is being used and what educators think of TNTP Core so far. 

Here are some of the headlines: 

One third of respondents are already using TNTP Core Teaching Rubric in their schools. Some report that they’re testing or piloting the rubric, while others are modifying the language to fit their local context. Still others are using TNTP Core as-is. Among the two-thirds who aren’t yet using TNTP Core in classrooms, many explained that they’re in some stage of reviewing or comparing the rubric for possible use in their school(s) next school year. 

They like it! They really like it! Respondents, even those who aren’t yet active users, think TNTP Core is doing what it set out to do. On a six-point scale, nine out of 10 respondents “agree” or “strongly agree” that TNTP Core promotes Common Core-aligned instruction and think it covers the essential aspects of classroom instruction, and eight out of 10 think it supports observers to give useful feedback to teachers. Respondents also report that TNTP Core is an improvement on tools they’ve used in the past: Eight out of 10 say it’s “better” or “much better” than other rubrics they have used in their schools or districts, out of five choices. 

Respondents offered other positive feedback, too. A coach in Colorado said the rubric “clearly articulates a vision of good teaching,” while a teacher in New York reported that it “allows for positive communication between educators.” A union representative in Colorado liked the tool’s “streamlined simplicity.” 

Formal adoption of the rubric in evaluation systems will take some time. Only one in 10 users is currently including the rubric in formal teacher evaluations. That’s as it should be. It takes time to adapt, pilot and come to a shared understanding of what each part of the rubric looks like in classrooms. Survey respondents indicate that TNTP Core is under review or consideration in many places where it’s not currently in formal use. 

Users have some great ideas for how to customize TNTP Core. When we launched the rubric under a Creative Commons license, we hoped users would take it and build on it. We understand the need to make a rubric fit your local context in both language and substance. TNTP Core is downloaded as a Microsoft Word document to make it easy to edit and adapt. We’re happy to see that process in action across the country. A school leader in North Carolina, for example, reported adding specific examples of teacher feedback to the rubric, while a consultant in Pennsylvania linked the included teacher actions more explicitly to specific student behaviors assessed by the rubric. 

ReNEW Charter Schools in New Orleans shared their modification of the rubric with us, too. The original TNTP Core was built to assess classroom performance using five levels of teacher effectiveness. But, like many districts, ReNEW uses a four-point scale for teacher evaluations, so they updated the rubric to have four levels for each performance area (rather than five). By sharing their revised version, ReNEW helped us make TNTP Core helpful to even more users. Now, TNTP Core is available for download with either a four- or five-point scale. 

We’re excited that educators are finding and using TNTP Core in their schools. We look forward to seeing how the rubric continues to evolve as more users adopt it. Are you using TNTP Core? Let us know what you think.

David Malbin is Director, Special Projects at TNTP.

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