Lesson 7: Streamline Communications
Many of the school systems have deliberately streamlined their communications to minimize information overload. Instead of bombarding staff with emails and newsletters, they are increasingly driving them to their initiative websites, which are serving as one-stop portals for information and updates.
They have adjusted their strategic communications plans and eliminated or significantly reduced the frequency of emails, e-newsletters, and the like."In the last two years teachers and principals
seemed bogged down by the amount of
communications from the home office about this work. They didn't know what to prioritize until we streamlined our communication with them."— Julia Fisher (Green Dot Public Schools)"We underestimated the amount of work to help teachers understand these issues. We need to get information to them in reasonable chunks and pieces."— Angela King Smith (Atlanta Public Schools)"We have found that having a portal for the Tulsa Model, our teacher evaluation system, has proven to be the most effective way to communicate with our stakeholder audiences. In addition to our own teachers and principals, we have 499 school districts and career teach centers statewide that are using our system. The portal is the easiest way to make all video and print resources available."— Christopher Payne (Tulsa Public Schools)
Examples from the Field:
Aspire Public Schools (CA)
Aspire’s internal website has a special section for The College-Ready Promise information on teacher support and evaluation, with rotating news and updates and the ability to search by category.
Green Dot Public Schools (CA)
Green Dot drives everyone to its internal website, which has all the relevant documents and information. Plus, principals get a weekly summary email, which is required reading. The charter network is planning a similar resource for teachers. As the new teacher contract was being considered, the network also sent teachers daily email updates, The Daily Dose, which answered frequently asked questions.
Pittsburgh Public Schools
Using Constant Contact, which allows the sender to track email results, Pittsburgh staff found that only 26 percent of teachers were even opening their weekly emails, so they switched to monthly and are making more use of the web. The website, developed jointly with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, offers research; updates; accomplishments; a video library; and a detailed archive with overviews, presentations, white papers, and FAQs on about a dozen issues, from career ladders to multiple measures and value-added models. In addition, the internal teacher portal, with teachers’ grade books and evaluation information, prominently features regular news updates.
Hillsborough County Public Schools (FL)
Hillsborough County has dramatically reduced the number of messages that automatically pop up on staff’s computers whenever they log in. And it is making more judicious use of surveys. Its website features videos, podcasts, seasonal e-zines, mini-bios of peer and mentor teachers, and detailed FAQs on everything from communications and compensation to induction and professional development.
Denver Public Schools
Denver’s website includes comprehensive, clear messaging materials and talking points; extensive videos of both peer observers and evaluated teachers (including those with concerns); detailed FAQs and timelines; transparent explanations of the process; downloadable copies of the evaluation/support tools; and an easy-to-use, prominent feedback mechanism.
Atlanta Public Schools
Atlanta’s website features basic background information; FAQs; archives of its monthly TGIF (Teachers Get Informed First) newsletter; and a prominent link to submit questions, which are answered within a week.
Memphis City Schools
The Memphis website features the I Teach, I Am empowerment campaign materials; a blog; more than a dozen high-impact, 30-second videos; PSAs; a Tumblr feed; and an online press kit.
Prince George’s County Public Schools (MD)
Prince George’s County’s website features a 10-minute overview video of the new teacher observation process, an electronic evaluation handbook with tools and references, and detailed FAQs to help evaluators use Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Effective Teaching.
Tulsa Public Schools
Tulsa’s website features basic overview information, a video library showcasing examples of effective classroom teaching for “calibration” purposes, a detailed evaluator’s handbook, multiple rubric documents, observation and evaluation forms, news releases, and links to related “value-added” performance reports.