A movie image (“Waiting for Superman”) of ‘bad teachers’ removed from teaching, waiting for ‘decisions’ as to their fate, AND getting paid, still burns in our collective psyche on ‘waste.’ We do not know their ‘crimes,’ but we do know that people being paid for doing nothing is wrong. ‘Abuses’ in education have people demanding “Fire teachers! Cut education funding!”
And they did. Whatever money ‘awarded’ to education came with loaded guns, all aimed at teachers: Evaluation, tenure, salary and benefits, class size, and cuts in funding for books and materials. Teachers do not set education policies, yet they take the hit for the failure of these policies. The blame is disproportionate to their influence on school policies decision-making. It is simply appalling.
Evaluation. Its focus must be teacher efficacy, not an evidentiary exercise to document annual performance evaluation. It is highly subjective and totally dependent on the evaluator’s perception and perspective. It can be both fair and unfair, depending on teacher-administrator relationship. It is perfunctory – snapshots of maybe two or three times a year, and far apart. The value added to evaluations can make or break a teacher. It must be based on frequent observations, by a number of people.
Rep. Brynaert of Minnesota proposed a bill where teachers are appraised by trained evaluators, including school administrators and experienced teachers already in the districts (T. Dooher, StarTribune.com). An ongoing study, the Measures of Effective Teaching Project (www.metproject.org) funded by the Gates Foundation (www.gatesfoundation.org) posits that “reinventing the way we develop and evaluate teachers will require a thorough culture change in our schools” (p.8). The initial findings show that the average student knows effective teaching when he or she experiences it; that valid feedback need not be limited to test scores alone; and that it is possible to provide diagnostic and targeted feedback to teachers by combining different sources of data.
The school climate and culture MUST change. Trust and participation engender teacher efficacy. Effective leaders must: Establish clear standards about what teachers should know and be able to do; show what is good teaching and what isn’t through staff development and mentoring; give timely feedback often and from different perspectives; allow time for collaboration; encourage teachers to video tape themselves and to reflect on their teaching; and provide them with resources and tools that will help them become better. With this culture in place, teacher evaluation will ‘reform’ itself.