We used to joke that Plato was Joel’s student teacher, he was a veteran, with a Phd in history from a major university,and a really good teacher, if you measure “good” by the hordes of kids coming back from college thanking him for preparing them for the rigors of college. One day he walked into the teacher’s cafeteria and hunched in a corner reviewing his dog eared lesson plans, not speaking with anyone. I walked over to say hello and he grumbled, “leave me alone, I’m going to be observed, I hate being observed.” A master teacher with stunning credentials and decades of experience, teachers abhor the observation process.
The school leader taught a daily class, posted his lesson plans on the school intranet and invited any teacher to observe him. Few every did.
The principal disaggregated the state exam data by student error and provided each teacher with a folder listing specific areas that needed remediation. His routine was to visit each classroom for five or so minutes at least twice a week. A teacher with thirty plus years of experience objected, “I know what I’m doing.” The principal responded, “Do the kids understand what you’re doing?” He told the teacher that all teachers, year one to year whatever, had an obligation to improve, to look at student performance data, responses in class, classroom quiz/test results, interim and periodic assessments, and adjust their practice accordingly. The teacher shot back, “What do you expect from these kids?” and ran to complain to the union that he was being harassed.
A group of newer teachers, all Teach for America, were complaining that layoff by inverse order of seniority was unfair. After all, they came early, stayed late, had great rapport with the students and the principal. A male Afro-American teacher, with a reputation of being extremely strict suddenly responded, “You people are a joke, you “high five” kids, you want to be their friends, they laugh behind your backs, you cut them slack, you may be dedicated but you’re teaching these kids all the wrong lessons. You reinforce all the behaviors that lead them to fail.” There was a hushed silence. Are teaching the non-cognitive skills, coming to school every day, on time, handing in homework without excuses, respect, good behavior the keys to success?
Evaluating teachers is complex and potentially combative, especially connecting practice to evaluation (see a detailed web seminar here) and if you’re available April 14th at 3 PM register and tune in to a discussion,
experts and practitioners (will) discuss the existing research and strategies that address evaluating teachers of at-risk populations. The presentations will include an overview of the research on effective evaluations of teacher effectiveness for at-risk populations, specifically focusing on students with disabilities and English language learners (ELLs).
Do supervisory observations, department/grade meetings, faculty meetings, professional development, mentors, coaches, AUSSI’s, teacher centers improve classroom practice? Yes, for some.
Can supervisors and coachs suggest, recommend, model, evaluate and rate teachers in a non-conflict ridden climate? With difficulty.
Should school systems provide a range of support organizations and allow schools to select whatever supports and/or assistance they chose, and simply evaluate the end product: standardized test scores and graduation rates?
Teachers lament that standardized tests vary from year to year and are not adequate measures of student progress, students are not randomly assigned to classes nor are teachers randomly assigned, comparing results from year to year is statistically flawed, poverty/Special Education/ELL have major impacts on student progress and different measurements are required. All, to some extent, true.
Should teachers play a role in supporting and assessing colleagues? If not, will the assessors/evaluators have to depend upon data, flawed or not?
Duncan dangles dollars to entice states to accept a range of policies that teachers reject. The recently posting video of the Q & A that determined winners and losers is depressing.
The Joel Klein Department of Education gives wide latitude to schools in how to achieve ends, and holds schools and their staffs accountable, ends as measured by test scores, graduations rates, etc.
If we reject the Duncan/Klein blueprint, what do we suggest? To rail against without an alternative is not fruitful.
Randi Weingarten, the AFT President, suggests a striking change in teacher evaluation (“A New Path Forward”), a plan with which many teachers do not feel comfortable.
Can the UFT and the Department of Education agree on “A New Path Forward,” for New York City schools?
It will require taking risks: the Department abandoning the ATR pool, rubber rooms, punitive confrontations and the union accepting that teacher empowerment may drive teachers away from traditional union contract enforcement roles.
Times of crises are opportunities.