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A District’s Journey Towards Learning-Centered Evaluation: Wausau School District

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Article submission by:
Chris Nyman, Coordinator of Professional Learning, Wausau School District
Andrea Sheridan, Director of Teaching, Learning and Leadership Integration, Wausau School District

Implementing the Educator Effectiveness (EE) System is a significant task! Our journey began nine years ago, when the Wausau School District embraced the opportunity to learn more about the Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System and do whatever it takes to implement the system meaningfully. As a district, we sought out opportunities to have a “voice” in the development of the EE System tools and the statewide process.

Locally, the district focused on these key areas:

Establish Trust

The district identified options to develop a foundation of trust in the system amongst those involved in implementing a learning-centered evaluation approach. District leadership actions were strategic and inclusive of all educators and administrators. Actions included engaging those closest to the change in conversation, and being transparent in the decision-making process. To support the changes, the district established a design team that included WEA Leadership, educators and administrators. The design team used survey data to inform local decisions from the very beginning of the process.

Provide Training and Support

In early implementation, district educators gained a better understanding of the Framework for Teaching by Charlotte Danielson to develop a common language for best practice and build trust. The district created a unique training approach including a two-day trainer of trainer model based upon the Framework for Teaching. Teams of three (a central office administrator and campus principals) implemented the training district-wide during fall and winter district professional learning days. All central office administrators participated in the training to show support for the change process and to develop an understanding about the Educator Effectiveness System. In the first year of implementation, the district hired an EE Coach at every campus to support educators and evaluators. To establish and build trust, the district offered Educator Effectiveness coaches a full year of continued learning with a focus on “coaching adult learners” and leading collaborative conversations. In year two, the EE coaches received EE System training and began working with colleagues to support them in the learning-centered evaluation process. We continue to have paid EE coaches who are supported with on-going training.

Align to Other Improvement Efforts

The alignment of a learning-centered evaluation process to existing Pre-K-12 Professional Learning Community (PLC) structures across the district was, and continues to be important. The PLC framework supports innovation and risk-taking among collaborative interdependent teacher teams. Grade level and department teams meet weekly to analyze formative and summative data to inform instructional decisions. This framework for collaboration provides educators with consistent opportunities to evaluate and re-evaluate the impact of their instruction on student learning.

The Wausau School District continues to emphasize Educator Effectiveness as a growth model and transparency in our evaluation practices contributes to maintaining high levels of trust between educators and administrators who work within the learning-centered evaluation system.

Authors Chris Nyman ( and Andrea Sheridan ( welcome questions and opportunities to share more about the implementation evolution of the Wausau School District.

Additional Resources

  • WI Educator Effectiveness System Policy Tool provides connections to other initiatives, local considerations and decision points organized by topics, a leveled continuum of implementation descriptions, as well as an example action planning template.
  • The Peer Review and Mentoring Grant program provides support for public school districts, independent public charter schools, and Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESAs) to develop new or redesign ongoing peer and mentoring support programs for initial educators in Wisconsin.