So I'm taking a break from panicking about having a child having anxiety over my dissertation my morning routine and getting caught up on my education news, when I see this beaut in my inbox, just beckoning me to write about it. You see the New Teacher Project surveyed a bunch of teachers in the Denver Public School System and came to the conclusion that teacher evaluations don't mirror actual teacher quality. It may sound shocking at first, but when you think about the quality and depth of most teacher observations, you realize that this sounds about right.
Let's take this article bit by bit, shall we? ANNND GO!
Toward the beginning of the article, the author references another related study done by the NTP. This study "... concluded that teachers are, in effect, treated like interchangeable parts because good educators get no better evaluations than bad ones. Teachers rarely get feedback or support and the worst ones are seldom are removed."
Crap! Where do I even BEGIN when dissecting this baby?
Are we really treated like interchangeable parts? You know, I don't think we all are. I have to hope that there are some of you out there who are teaching and feeling valued. I have to hope that somewhere out there, there is a group of teachers who feel appreciated by their colleagues and administrators because that is the way I believe it should be. I have to hope that because otherwise, I may just quit it all and go get the application for a job at Papyrus.
Did I ever feel like an interchangeable part? Sadly, the answer is yes. While I think I was respected for my work, I was also told many times and in many ways that I, along with all the other teachers at my school, was replaceable. And while in theory, of course I know that I am replaceable, I hated the notion that I would leave, and they would simply hire someone else and call it a day. But you know what - that's kind of what happened. There was no "good bye" from an administrator, no letter of thanks, no thank you at all. Just a "turn in your key" as I sobbed into my wad of Kleenex. (And then many, many, beers and a few shared bottles of wine with my Super Colleagues.)
Is it true that good educators are treated no differently than bad ones? I mean, yes and no. Yes, in general, we are treated differently by our peers, by parents and by the students. And no, we aren't treated any differently in that we all have the same job, we all get the same pay, and we all get to call ourselves "teachers" despite the fact that some of us are killing ourselves making up for everyone else's slack while the rest of them get to read the paper, sip coffee and be perpetually unprepared, unprofessional, and decidedly un-fabulous. Maybe bad teachers have a different take on this, but I doubt they will be a) reading this, b) responding to this or c) working hard.
The article then continues on stating:
"62% of teachers say the evaluation process fails to provide an accurate assessment of performance"
Um, no kidding. Can I get an article published for stating the obvious? Let's see, have I ever told you the story about the time that I got observed in math, but then received a feedback report about some reading lesson I had never actually taught? And then I got yelled at for pointing out the mistake? And got told I was being ridiculous because I wouldn't sign my copy of the observation report? No? Remind me to tell you that one - it's a doozy. I know I DID tell you about the time that The Weave suggested I implement a particular chart into my math routine whilst she was sitting in front of said chart at the time, proving that her powers of observation may not be so keen. I mean, let's be real about most of our observations. Dog-and-pony show much?
Perhaps this is not the case for all of you (and I hope it's not), but let me just paint a somewhat brief picture of what getting observed can be like if the above link was not enough.
I was told what subject to teach for my observation (instead of getting the opportunity to choose a subject ourselves that we might want guidance or feedback in).
I was told the date and time of my observation, which did not necessarily align with when I regularly taught that particular subject.
I was told to work it out.
I stalled and stalled on the day of said observation, waiting for an administrator to show up, but alas, there wasn't an administrator as far as the eye could see.
I sighed and continued on with my jacked up day.
I rescheduled the observation.
I rescheduled the observation again.
I waited again.
I waited for the administrator to reschedule the observation.
Then I rescheduled the observation my damn self.
I, by some sort of miracle, actually get to teach said lesson in front of an administrator.
I watch the administrator shuffle through my filed data, look around my classroom and check her Blackberry instead of listening and, you know, observing.
I continue to teach.
I receive feedback in my mailbox a mere 9 weeks later.
I am distracted by various spelling and grammar errors.
I got an "S".
I sigh again.
I sign the observation report.
I pick up a bottle of wine on the way home.
But back to the article. The study drew some alarming conclusions. This one in particular was my favorite:
70 percent of administrators and 30% of teachers think that there are tenured teachers in their building who should be dismissed for poor performance.
Dude, these people are the ones on the news sleeping with their students, and cheating on standardized tests and, I don't know, leaving at 3pm with empty bags, showing up at 8:15am with more empty bags...these are the people making the rest of us look bad. And by NO MEANS, am I saying or implying that teachers with many years of experience are the ones that are performing poorly. I believe WHOLE HEARTEDLY that the teachers with the most experience, should often be the most revered and the ones we turn to to help FIX THIS WHOLE MESS. However, I also believe that there ARE tenured teachers, young and old, who SUCK A FAT ONE and don't deserve to call themselves teachers. Yet somehow they still have a job. Perhaps you are familiar with some of my previous rants? (Click here if you need a refresher on the Human Roadblocks To Student Learning to whom I am referring.) (Or just buy my book and you'll get the picture.)
The superintendent of the Denver Public Schools concluded the following:
"The report makes clear what we are all too painfully aware of, that virtually every element of our structure on how we retain, recruit, reward, develop and replace teachers if fundamentally misaligned with our goals of having a highly effective teacher in every classroom."