Evaluation Reform: Part Three – Administrative Voices?

In a stack of papers called Reform.

  • Jul
  • 12
  • 2005

Teachers in my school district are currently evaluated by a bi-annual visit from an administrator (principals and the like). Every 2 years, an administrator spends 53 minutes in my classroom, taking notes on what happens during that time. That 53-minute period, that solitary visit to my classroom on a day and time that I know about well in advance is supposed to be some type of record of how effective I am as an educator. That visit is the single requirement our district has for teacher evaluation.

Clearly, this is a flawed system.

Virginia Postrel suggests that a “boss’s professional evaluation” be the direct link to how much a teacher is paid. Those bosses are usually administrators.

Good administrators bring to bear effective teaching strategies, regardless of their subject area knowledge. Good administrators can comment not necessarily on the content taught, but the methods used, offering suggestions for how to improve the delivery of instruction, even making reference to specific research and materials that might assist in the implementation of more effective teaching strategies. Good administrators help create good teachers through an ongoing professional dialogue.

Once I meet an administrator who can honestly do all those things, I will have found the school where I will live out the remainder of my teaching career. I have yet to see or even hear of such an administrator.

For the last 4 years, my school has had an administrative team who never taught at the high school level and who hadn’t been inside the classroom for several years. Our school is not unusual in that administrative make up. Our superintendent hadn’t been in the classroom since the mid-70s and she only taught for about 3 years before moving into administrative positions. Why do I care what someone who has never taught high school has to say about my classroom? Worse than that, why do I care about what someone who has a degree in science and administration has to say about how I teach English? In such cases, it’s more like a boss’s educated guess, not evaluation.

The way teachers are evaluated needs to change. The current evaluation system doesn’t create better teachers. At most, it creates teachers who can nod their heads as a list of the day’s events are read off to them. Suggestions from the current principal who used to teach 6th grade back in 1976 only go so far with an AP English teacher facing a room full of high school seniors.

Teachers could be evaluated by their peers (other teachers, not administrators). They could be evaluated by standardized test scores. They could be evaluated by students. They could be evaluated by themselves. They could be evaluated by administrators. All of these could make up a teacher’s evaluation.

The trouble comes in hinging a definition of teacher success on any one of these, leaving it solely to that as a deciding factor.

NOTE: This entry is also posted on my Bayosphere blog.

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