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Evaluation: Needs Improvement

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Many quite reasonable people wonder why teachers seem hesitant to adopt performance-pay plans. Renee Moore explains that it's at least partly because they know how shoddy school performance-evaluation systems are:

[It's] not, as many uninformed critics have argued, because teachers don't want to be held accountable. I believe teachers do want to be held to high standards and meet them; this is our life's work. However, teaching quality can't be measured with a test-score print out at the end of the year and a "walk-by" peek in the window of my classroom door.

Moore uses herself as a case in point: In 15 years of teaching, she says, she never once had a thorough and constructive evaluation.

6 Comments

Of all the discussions I have followed about the evaluation of teachers, I have yet to hear anyone suggest that students themselves might have something useful to say about the competency of their teacher. Would the NEA ever allow such a thing? Anyone who thinks that students would give the highest rating to teachers who grade the easiest and demand the least from their students doesn't understand the nature of children. When students are allowed to grade their teachers they will appreciate the notion that their opinion counts for something. Is that such a scarry thought?

Nice piece on teacher evaluation, Renee--your experience parallels my own. As for David Douglas' suggestion that students evaluate teachers, there are many K-12 teachers who survey their students for feedback, and student evaluations are routine at the university level. And, of course, there's Ratemyteacher.com---.

While I agree that many students are looking for more than fun or an easy A in their classroom experiences, Renee's comments point up the fact that evaluating teachers is a skill that requires some knowledge of instruction, assessment, learning environment, etc. If we can't trust principals (theoretically the instructional leaders) to reliably evaluate teacher performance, can we expect that students will know what to look for in a highly capable teacher?

Some companies use 360 evaluation--not because every party has the ability to know all that needs to be considered--but because no party knows all that needs to be considered. Certainly there is a place for a student voice--not because students know more than principles, but because they have an important point of view. Likewise, parents see a different dimension, as do office assistants, etc.

What is disturbing about the lack of trust in the judgement of principals when it comes to evaluating teachers, is that principals are drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of teachers. And while there is huge insistence that teachers are the best evaluators of students--and able to do so with some level of consistency, without any external structures of agreement about grading policies or common testing protocols--somehow there is not an expectation that this carries over when these teachers move up in the ranks.

There is of course, the school of thought that principals are drawn only from the ranks of INFERIOR teachers (which it would seem would argue in favor of not only teacher evaluation, but also in favor of some standardized outside evaluation of what students learn). In short, can it be that we have difficulty in expecting students to meet standards because we ourselves (the adults) are some uncomfortable with having to conform to standards ourselves?

I have been teaching 27 years and really put a lot of thought into what I teach, I write grants to get more equipment and supplies, I stay late and work harder and so on. I rarely have had a high administrator say anything other than "your rules aren't worded correctly'', or some other little picky thing that I am supposed to fix right away. I don't really mind doing these changes, but it always seems like an odd obsevation for them to have. I never have behavior problems, so my rules must work, right? It's little incongruencies like that that shows how little the administration really 'sees' what is going on in the school.

I have been teaching 27 years and really put a lot of thought into what I teach, I write grants to get more equipment and supplies, I stay late and work harder and so on. I rarely have had a high administrator say anything other than "your rules aren't worded correctly'', or some other little picky thing that I am supposed to fix right away. I don't really mind doing these changes, but it always seems like an odd obsevation for them to have. I never have behavior problems, so my rules must work, right? It's little incongruencies like that that shows how little the administration really 'sees' what is going on in the school.

Thank you for all your comments on my post. I like David and Margo's suggestions that students and parents need to be involved in evaluating teachers by helping us see ourselves from all angles!

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Recent Comments

  • Renee Moore: Thank you for all your comments on my post. I read more
  • Lana Newport: I have been teaching 27 years and really put a read more
  • Lana Newport: I have been teaching 27 years and really put a read more
  • Margo/Mom: Some companies use 360 evaluation--not because every party has the read more
  • Nancy Flanagan: Nice piece on teacher evaluation, Renee--your experience parallels my own. read more

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