Last night on #edchat, participants tried to tackle the tough questions surrounding teacher evaluations. Mainly what part should the teacher play in their evaluation? What should teacher evaluations look like? And what would should be included in those evaluations? It was an interesting discussion. Here is just a taste of what was said:
- Assessment should come from a variety of sources including administration, students, peers, self, and key community members. Before any assessment takes place the right conditions/environment needs to be created. There needs to be mutual respect and an understanding that it's part of the learning process. The assessor and assessee need to establish a relationship if one doesn't already exist. Assessment needs to be frequent and less formal if it is to have its desired affect.
- I think peer evaluation is important, particularly as an ongoing formative activity. One way to do it could be to focus on 2 or 3 specific issues each time, change them for future evaluations and then recycle to see how they've improved (or not). Input for the issues could come from either the evaluator and the teacher being evaluated -I believe teachers need to have an active role in their evaluation.
- Some aspects to consider might be: the ability/way the teacher responds to students' participation, whether the teacher stays in the same physical spot or walks around the room and the effects of that,the use of the board (is easy for students to follow, is it too cluttered but clear anyway?is it over/under-used?); how does the T react when a student asks a question the T is not sure about, how do students react to this and what's the effect in the flow of the lesson? Does the lesson follow a discernable pattern; if so, what's the effect?; is there anything particular to note about classroom dynamics?
- Not all teachers are comfortable with peer observation, so we have to build community FIRST to foster comfort and honest feedback.
- Teachers who want to improve will ask their students to evaluate them. Critical incident reports, exit slips, anonymous surveys, etc
You can read more summarizing thoughts here and the archive here.
So what do I think...
Teacher evaluation systems are different all over the place. They can vary from state to state and even district to district. I do believe they all have good intentions. The goal is to make sure we have the best available teaching our kids. But yet while they all might have the same goal I would guess that most of them are flawed, some in a very major way.
I have only worked in one state so can only speak for the way things are here. Our teacher evaluation system is changing in North Carolina. It is going from probably the worst method to tolerable. Before teachers were observed, growth plans were examined and most teachers escaped with At Standard or Above. It was very, very subjective. If you had an administrator who you did not particularly mesh well with you might be faced with an Action Plan, meaning more work and more observations.
The state recognized there was a problem so they changed the system. Now it is based on evidences. If a teacher is believes they are Accomplished or Distinguished they have to prove it. Also in this model is a self-evaluation component. Again, this is a better model but there is still some subjectivity involved when the administrator goes to determine the overall ranking. And now with RTTT standardized test scores will be a part of that ranking.
For me there are some things missing.
An administrator can walk into a room and will only ever see a snapshot of that room on that day at that time. How can that ever be used to determine how effective a teacher is? But who is with that teacher day in and day out? Kids. I know there are limitations but at least in the upper grades this should be taken into account.
I was lucky when I was in the classroom. I had an administration that believed the teachers could best learn from each other. So we were able to visit other classrooms several times a year to see what other teachers were doing and to offer feedback. These were some of the most valuable for me because I got to see things I had heard about but also when I was observed I got some really awesome feedback for things I could do differently. Peer evaluations and conversations should be a big part of any evaluation system.
One thing is for sure. If we start to use standardized test scores as part of teacher evaluations we begin walking down a very dangerous road. Are all the kids we teach exactly the same? Do they come from the same backgrounds and home life and do they all learn the same? Until we are teaching robots who are all programed to think and act the same we might as well forget about using testing to evaluate teachers. I really believe we are headed for an educational crisis in this country because teachers are going to leave the classroom because they are judged on one test rather then their true ability to teach. I won't and would never stand for it an neither should you.
Teachers should be evaluated. But there has to be many factors that go into that evaluation. Just like we believe testing is a snapshot of the overall ability of a student, we have to look at the whole picture and take into account everything. After all our kids deserve the best, don't they?