From the ground up: Teacher evaluation as a cyclical process

Hey John,

As the year comes to a close, there’s a collection of very bold and progressive teachers voicing their opinions on the hot item of the moment: teacher evaluation. Some of my favorites include Renee Moore’s The Future Is Now for Teacher Evaluation and Michael Moran’s Context Matters. In each of these essays, there’s accurate and nuanced reflection about the profession and, more importantly, there’s a sense that we can’t rely on a random, outside observer handing out standardized tests as a measure of what the kids actually know and / or what the teacher actually taught.

From Renee:

How can we evaluate such rich complexity with all the varying levels of performance and experience they represent across the largest profession in America—with a few five-minute walk-bys and a checklist? Hardly. The old factory evaluation model, which was never a good fit for education, will be even less so as we move further into the potential of immersed learning and interconnected teaching. One principal trying to evaluate an entire faculty whose members practice a dizzying variety of pedagogical skills will be painfully ineffective. Like our students, teachers need assessment of our work based on a combination of measures and reviewers, with teachers taking responsibility for our own professional growth based on mutually established, student-centered goals.

To get there from here will require transformed thinking and some significant power shifts, neither of which, history reminds us, come easily. But I believe we are on the verge of such a shift as teaching finally morphs into a true profession. One of the trademarks of a profession is peer review of each others’ work against high standards established by the profession.

From Michael:

So, what should teacher evaluations look like? They should look like the teacher. They should look like the students and the classroom in which those students learn. Teacher evaluations should look like the grade level, content area, and community the teacher teaches. They should look like the goals that teachers, students, and administrators set for themselves, their classes, and the school as a whole.

The point I’m trying to make here is that a lot of the evidence that indicates teacher effectiveness is dependent on context. Sure, great teachers are great leaders, and great leaders can lead anywhere, but you run into a problem when an art teacher is evaluated on the standardized test results of one grade level in mathematics. Evaluations need to be multifaceted, taking into consideration not only student performance on standardized tests, but the academic growth of students as demonstrated by a portfolio of artifacts, the relationships that teachers build with students and their parents as demonstrated by student and family evaluative surveys, and observations from not only administrators, but peers and master teachers.

Powerful pieces there. Read the rest (and more opinions) here.

We are in a profession that needs voices on the school level discussing teaching. With so much misinformation getting out about the teaching profession, it’s not enough for teachers to stand by and let evaluation happen to that. We ought to shape policy and create our own solutions.

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