The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently completed a report about my school district in Oakland, California. In in a previous post, I’ve summarized my initial reactions to NCTQ’s report.

In this post, I dive deeper into NCTQ’s second finding, “The district evaluation system is confusing and data are not used to drive decision.”

NCTQ researchers came to our town with a set of preconceived criteria that they believe define an effective school system.  In terms of an evaluation system, NCTQ believes that a school should:

  • Ensure that all teachers are evaluated every year,
  • Use objective evidence of student learning as the main criteria by which to evaluate teachers,
  • Use multiple observers, including surveys of students, to help evaluate teachers,
  • Limit class observation to a set of objective standards that are linked to student performance,
  • Assign one of multiple levels to a teacher’s evaluation to distinguish their  performance from one another, and
  • Start the teacher evaluation process early in the year to give struggling teachers time and guidance for improvement.

NCTQ recommends that my district recruit teacher observers, “from multiple sources such as school administrators, department heads, trained exemplary teachers, central office evaluators, and content experts.”  In their report, they bemoan that Oakland teachers are only evaluated every other year, and I coundn’t agree more.

In reality, Oakland teachers are evaluated far less frequently.  Currently, only school administrators conduct official teacher observations.  These principals and vice principals are far too overloaded with other duties and teacher evaluation is relegated to a back burner year after year.

In order to just free up enough time for school administrator to carry out our current evaluation system, they are going to need a lot more front office support managing the “butts, busses, and budgets” that eat up nearly all of their time.  As much as I would like to see teachers observed and evaluated more often, I struggle to imagine that my district could afford to free up time for department heads, or hire exemplary teachers and content experts as teacher evaluators in an era of annual budget cuts.

The report asks my district to use multiple rating in order to distinguish differences in performance between teachers.  Currently, every teacher is either exceeding standards, meeting standards, developing, or unsatisfactory.  While the NCTQ report mentions starting “he teacher evaluation process early in the year to give struggling teachers time and guidance for improvement,” frankly, I don’t think this recommendation goes far enough.

I think my district needs to completely rethink and revamp it’s professional development office, lining it to teacher observations and evaluations.  Rather than spend the bulk of our professional development on a few high-profile consultants to conduct a few massive sit-and-get workshops, my district should split our professional development dollars and provide each teacher with a budget for instructional improvement.

Each teacher should work with her or his administrator or coach to map out a one or two-year professional development program on which to spend that money.  Teachers could use social media to connect with colleagues in their or other schools who share similar needs, pooling their budgets and organizing a book-study or attending a conference or class together.

I’ve got a lot to share about NCTQ’s recommendation about using “objective evidence of student learning” and the “preponderant criterion on which teachers are evaluated.”  For my school of nearly one-hundred teachers, gathering and analyzing samples of student work would generate a mountain of student essays and projects for our four administrators to review.  Frankly, I don’t think this can be accomplished given the current state of support our administrators receive.

In my next post, I’ll conduct a thought experiment about this mountain of student evidence and show how, without some radical rethinking about evaluations, schools like mine will chose to use student scores on state-mandated tests rather than alternative, and often more meaningful, measures of student learning.  Then, I’ll offer an alternative.

In the meantime, what do you think?  Does your teacher-evaluation system work for you?  IF so, what do you think is making the system work?  If not, what might a system that did work to help you improve your craft look like?



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