December 22nd is the Winter Solstice, marking the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. In terms of sunshine, it is the shortest period of daylight north of the equator. I enjoy the four seasons, but find the long nights of winter a challenge. Driving to and from work in the dark wears on me. I miss seeing details revealed by the morning light, and fumble my way to the house door after a good days work. Believe it or not, I have a file from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that lists the daily sunrise and sunset times for Glens Falls, New York. I refer to the file during this season to buoy my spirits as I calculate each day’s increasing duration of sunlight that follows the Solstice.
Light affects us and provides clarity in what we do. Sunlight induces the release of our feel good neurotransmitter, serotonin, which lightens our spirits and perhaps increases our productivity. As we continue marching through Race to the Top (RTTT) reforms, there are times when we labor through periods of darkness with little clarity to direct us forward. The newness and uncertainties of Annual Professional Performance Review models, Student Learning Objectives, and various growth measures are potential stressors that can compromise our sense of efficacy. Fortunately, shedding light on the subject can ease the burden.
Presently my colleague, Courtney Jablonski, and I are conducting sessions on principal evaluation systems. Under the RTTT deliverable of Great Teachers and Leaders, we are working with district and building leaders on understanding the the ISLLC Policy Standards and evaluation protocols of principal performance. With Student Learning Objectives, growth measures, and local assessments yet to be fully resolved, the confounding nature of principal rubrics and evaluation systems cast shadows in the minds of our hard-working audiences.
Courtney and I work with some of the state’s finest administrators and educators, and we empathize with our colleagues’ concerns and emotions. We recognize our roles as Network Team facilitators are to present educators and administrators quality information, support, and assurance that sunnier days will arrive as the State Education Department provides greater resolution on teacher and principal accountability systems. Today (December 20th) we learned that the State Education Department will be seeking content experts from the field to help create Student Learning Objective exemplars. SED has also posted a webinar on SLOs on the EngageNY site, and we know an agenda item at the January Network Team training is on SLOs. SED is working hard to shed light on RTTT components, and the timing is right.