Faculty Professional Development Quality teaching Teacher Evaluation

Hechinger Report | Memphis’ new teacher evaluation system adopted from controversial D.C. program

  • elaborate checklists that contain too many categories for responding to a teachers performance
  • 1 or 2 classroom observations
  • classroom observations by observers that are not adequately trained to carry out observations
  • hierarchical systems that alienate teachers from the process and are not rooted in professional growth
  • a premise of getting rid of “bad teachers”

These motivations seem to be the wrong ones.  Don’t get me wrong, I am in favor of moving bad or inadequate teachers out of the classroom.  However, I am not in favor of a “gotcha” evaluation system, one designed to hold teachers accountable for an unreasonably large number of categories on a checklist.  As indicated in Garland’s article, the observer has to see these checklist qualities within a 15-30 minute lesson.  This means the teacher probably won’t feel comfortable being creative or spontaneous with his or her lesson.

Evaluations based on 1-2 annual classroom observations will not fully represent the kind of work a teacher is able to do.  In evaluating student achievement, we formatively and summatively assess them regularly.  Why don’t we formatively assess teachers regularly with many observations over an extended period of time.  Kim Marshall’s model, Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation, involves doing 10-15 mini-observations.  He points out that a principal will get a much better window into a teacher’s performance if the teacher is observed frequently with each visit being around 10 minutes.

Schools and school districts should adopt a process that inserts teachers directly into the decision-making process around the models used for teacher evaluation.  They will have an easier time getting buy-in if teachers feel invested in the process.  See my blog post (click here) on the interview with Deborah Gist and how Rhode Island has achieved the support of teachers.

Finally, schools and school districts need to provide excellent training for principals to be effective observers of classroom instruction.  If principals spend 80% of their time getting the trains to run on time and 20% of their time on instructional leadership, they will never be seen as adequate educational leaders.  They will be managers.  Principals need to spend 80% of their time as instructional leaders and delegate the management responsibilities to others.  Principals need to be able to model good instructional practices and be seen as experts in these areas.  They don’t have to be experts in all the content areas, that isn’t feasible.  However, they should be experts in how to use a variety of instructional strategies and partner with faculty to implement new strategies to meet the needs of all students.  Building trust and confidence among the faculty should be a principal’s primary goal.

    • Washington, D.C. launched a controversial new teacher evaluation system two years ago that overhauled how teachers are rated and led to the firings of 7 percent of the teaching force—more than 280 people.
    • The new evaluations roiled the city; 80 percent of D.C. teachers believe it was not an “effective way to evaluate the performance” of teachers, according to a 2010 survey of more than 900 teachers by the local teachers union. And the chancellor who put the new evaluations in place, Michelle Rhee, is now gone, after the mayor who appointed her was voted out of office.
    • one that reform advocates hail as revolutionary even as some critics say it stifles teacher creativity.
    • Local educators say they chose the D.C. observation method—essentially a list of standards that teachers must demonstrate during a classroom observation, such as promoting critical thinking among students or managing classroom behavior—after looking closely at three different options.
    • Some teachers and principals say the list of standards that teachers must meet is unwieldy. Originally, D.C. teachers were required to demonstrate 13 standards in one 30-minute observation. After the first year, following complaints that it was impossible to demonstrate all the standards in one lesson, the number on the list was reduced to just nine.
    • In Memphis, evaluators look for 11 standards during 15-minute observations
    • The teachers in her school “do a dog-and-pony show to get through the observation,” Barron added. “The rest of the time it’s a watered-down, loosey-goosey instructional program.”
    • Another issue that has cropped up in both D.C. and Memphis is how well the teacher ratings based on classroom observations match the student test-score data that make up the other half of a teacher’s overall rating. For the most part, evaluators have been more forgiving than the test scores, raising concerns about the accuracy and reliability of both measures.
    • The D.C. union survey of teachers found that 94 percent believed there was a “lack of consistent understanding” among both teachers and evaluators of the observation framework’s expectations. Another two thirds felt they had not received sufficient training in the new system.
    • A survey last fall of 2,300 teachers conducted by Teach Plus, a nonprofit advocacy group, suggests that teachers here are more confident. Although not directly comparable to the union survey in D.C., it found that 57 percent of respondents wanted more help learning how to apply the framework “strategies” in class, but only about 17 percent were confused about the observation process and expectations.

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