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Disparate Views of Teacher Performance in San Francisco

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The folks at the New Teacher Project have put out a district-level analysis of staffing policies in San Francisco.

There are a lot of interesting findings to pick through, but the section that most struck me concerns teacher evaluations. Let's start with the actual figures: According to the report, only 5 out of 1,804 teachers received "unsatisfactory" performance ratings between 2005-07, while 86 percent of teachers earned one of the top two ratings.

Now, take this finding: In a survey of 90 principals, 38 percent said that they assigned higher evaluation ratings to tenured teachers than their performance warranted. Contrast that with a survey of 950 teachers, where 34 percent of teachers thought they should have earned a higher rating.

In other words, more than a third of principals think they are not tough enough on teachers, and more than a third of teachers think that principals are too tough on them. With this disparity, it's no wonder so many teachers view their principals as vindictive.

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WOW! That's really interesting. As a principal, I I absolutely bend over backwards to ensure that I utilize the evaluation process as a coaching tool. I don't document every single thing that I observe that causes me concern. Instead, I prioritize and focus on a couple of items at a time.

99% of the time, this approach is very effective. It builds trust and the teacher is more open to being coached and typically improves his/her practice as a result.

I can think of one time when this approach definitely came back to haunt me though. I had a teacher that was up for tenure. She had done a pretty good job up to that point- NOT A DYNAMIC OR GREAT JOB BY ANY MEANS- but a pretty good job. I felt like she had potential and she would be able to grow and sharpen her skill-set. She became pregnant and was having some personal issues at home. I tried to take these things into consideration and looking back now I realize that I was way too easy on her. After I finished her evaluation cycle and all of her observations were satisfactory, I saw a steady decline in her performance. She ended up getting tenure and turned out to be a very ineffective teacher. That was really hard for me.

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