Teacher Evaluation as a Growth Process: Why Evaluate
Part 1, Chapter 2: Why Evaluate
The beginning of many educators’ careers saw little consistency in the teacher evaluation process (Andrews, 2016, Powerpoint slide 3). Often times evaluation day would look something like this: an administrator (likely the principal) would tell a beginning teacher that they would stop by for an observation sometime that week. The teacher would then prepare many visuals and engaging activities for the upcoming lesson, so the students would be responsive and involved. After a showboat lesson, the administrator would leave a post-it note on the teacher’s desk saying something like, Enjoyed the lesson, keep up the good work! The administrator would then complete a checklist for the teacher, place a copy in their mailbox, and the teacher would sign and return it. This would likely be the last interaction concerning evaluation for the year.
As an elementary teacher, I was guilty of saving my best lessons for evaluation week. These lessons usually involved candy or cereal of some kind to be used as manipulatives. The reasons for this are fairly obvious. The kids were excited, the activities were endless: graphing, sorting, adding, subtracting, etc., and the best overarching bribe of all, If you do a good job and complete all of the activities, you can eat them at the end of the lesson. The idea here being that if it was a super-fun, hands-on lesson where kids were engaged (or maybe just hungry), you could wow your administrator and likely not suffer an observation for another year.
While my colleagues and I agreed that the positive reinforcement that stemmed from a summary of a job well done was pleasant, true constructive feedback was limited. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, evaluations were only truly utilized and monitored for teacher dismissal. In addition, there was a “lack of urgency” (Andrews, 2016, Powerpoint slide 5) when analyzing teacher and administrator evaluations, as schools and legislators concentrated on implementing school improvement initiatives that focused solely on instructional practices and student achievement scores.
Why then, is it important to change the way we evaluate? More importantly, why is it essential to change the conversation around teacher evaluation? Perhaps the quote below explains it best:
“Improvement usually means doing something that we have never done before.”
Legislative mandates are beginning to force the hand of administrators to adjust evaluation practices in their schools due to increased reporting components. Administrators can no longer skip evaluations for years at a time, nor count the post-it note mentioned above as constructive feedback. Administrators are now being asked to report teacher evaluation data as a summative number to their state agencies for the first time in their careers.
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