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?