Globe – “Boston gets an F in teacher appraisals”

What would Burlington’s grade be? (Boston Globe Story)

While there are positive and professional components to our teacher evaluation process, there are many aspects of the process that are meaningless.  The three categories of performance identified in the contract are, “satisfactory, developmental area, and unsatisfactory.”  These categories provide little useful information to either the teacher or administrator and do little to recognize the outstanding performance of some of our teachers. 

Evaluation, when done well, should be an effective form of professional development.  High-level, complex professions like teaching should promote reflection and collaboration within a framework of high expectations for ALL students and a high level of knowledge of best practices.  In speaking with teachers and principals, it is usually in the pre and post observation conversations where any reflection associated with our evaluation process occurs.  The majority of our opportunities for reflection and collaboration come outside of our evaluation process.  I would bet that teachers and administrators get more usable feedback when they are working together with their peers during department meetings, grade-level meetings, and team meetings. 

If research clearly provides a better way, why aren’t we doing it?

To borrow a phrase from Daniel Pink, contract language is largely written for the “passive and inert” – administrator and teacher.  Carrot and stick practices are most effective when dealing with assembly line production.  These hundred year-old, lowest common denominator methodologies are not effective when attempting to solve complex problems. 

Is the process and language worth fixing?

Sadly, I don’t think so.  Re-drafting language and a process designed around a 19th Century educational environment makes little sense.  Parsing inane langauge results in more inane language.

What if students had a voice in evaluating their superintendent, teachers and principals?

What if parents had a more formal role, instead of the closeted conversations that drive our annual conflicts over teacher assignment?

What if parents and students could pick the teachers or teams they wanted?

What if teachers had a more formal voice in evaluating themselves?

5 thoughts on “Globe – “Boston gets an F in teacher appraisals”

  1. tbaldasaro

    When sales from the Sears catalog began to slump in the early 90’s, they asked their customers what they could do to increase sales. Their customers demanded more catalogs, so Sears complied. At the same time, a little company in California began investigating ecommerce. This company was eBay – and no one, including the customers of Sears saw them coming. Now, ecommerce is huge (and eBay), and the Sears catalog is gone.

    I offer this story as a way to share that perhaps our customers (parents/kids) don’t necessarily know what may be best – only because they aren’t as informed as school officials should be. That is not to say that parents/students should not have a say. My point here is to suggest while parents/students should be a part of any evaluative process relative to local schools, there needs to be an educative piece to help ensure that the process is not void of informed decision making.

  2. DMarcus

    The Burlington Educators Association welcomes innovation and improvement by its teachers and its administration. While some items may be up for debate, there are others that have been negotiated in good faith in the teachers’ contract. We respectfully request that the ground rules for the collective bargaining process agreed to by the school administration, Burlington School Committee and the BEA be respected when addressing the public as a member of the Burlington Public Schools.

  3. Patrick Larkin

    This is a great conversation. I think that parents, students, and teachers should evaluate administrators. I also think that it is a fact that most evaluation instruments do not lead to a significant improvement in classroom practice. This is also is not just a Burlington issue it is an education issue (i.e. “the widget effect”

    We need to move beyond posturing and towards mechanisms that will allow teachers and administrators to move towards an ongoing, respectful conversation about how to create the best possible environments for learners. Fortunately, I feel that we are ahead of many other school districts in this work here in Burlington.


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