Sunday, July 17, 2011

An overhaul to the evaluation systems.

I've been travelling and recovering from a long (but good!) year... so lots of blog posts are brewing...
Saw this article today and it got me thinking.
Want to know what I was thinking? Hit the jumpity jump jump.

Teacher evaluation. Why on earth is this only a pilot program? I still cannot fathom why we still use a system of "Satisfactory" and "Unsatisfactory." Apparently there's a need improvement code in there as well, but when I got my end of year eval, there were only two boxes. Which is ridiculous. Where is the differentiation or impetus to grow as an educator? I'm satisfactory... which means that whatever I'm doing will continue to do. No striving needed.

I was in DC this past weekend for an amazing visit with friends and I met this guy who's a teacher in the DC system. He teaches at-risk kids too and was feeling the burn this year. So he applied to a job in Virginia. The pay is better. But then, while we were all having drinks, he got news that he did indeed receive an excellent on his evaluation and would thus receive a fifteen thousand dollar bonus. Wait. Let me write that out a few different ways: $15,000, $15k, $1.5 tens of thousands of dollars. His mind was made up: he would not leave DC schools. The system worked: here was a teacher who is by the standards set considered highly effective and he is going to stay in a crisis school and make it work.

So New York - I know you're trying to figure this out. Let me help you. Because the DC system is far from perfect. But, in this anecdotal example above, it actually works. Teachers need carrots to continue to work just like the Wall Street kids. As a teacher, I think you find your "intrinsic groove" and make amazing connections with kids - it should be one of the main reasons why you teach. However, there are so many environmental factors on hand to annihilate that groove and turn it into a rut. So a little extrinsic motivation and guidance can go a long way. Here's what I propose - and remember, this needs to make sense for ALL teachers, not just teachers who test - because as an art educator, what does my eval have to do with test scores?

First thing - get rid of ELA and Math Coaches. Each school has one or two master teachers assigned to them to provide intensive work with struggling teachers, do evaluations and grade the special projects (see below). These Master Teachers should not be picked by the principal. In fact, they should be in a central office so the individual principals cannot hold as much sway over them.

Each teacher gets evaluated 4 times a year: twice by a principal and twice by an impartial "Master Teacher."

All teachers are evaluated on a "special project" defined in the school - for ELA and Math, this could be portfolio assessment graded by master teachers during the months, a gallery show of student work for art, or a fitness week for physical education - the idea here is to move away from testing on a single day (which I believe Common Core Standards will slowly do. At least I hope so) and look at the actual growth of the child in the year. Classes that can test knowledge at the beginning of the year and at the end should do so, just make it not high stakes. The portfolio assessment grade given by the master teacher will determine whether the child passes the class. The grades given on this will be based on actual growth made by the student - so if they're tested at the beginning of the year as a 1st grader in 6th grade and at the end are tested as a 5th... the teacher should not be penalized, but lauded for amazing work.

Teachers are evaluated on timeliness and professional demeanor. Showing up to meetings, filling out paperwork in a timely manner, that sort of back office work that is surprisingly needed in order for things to function.

Teachers should also get reviewed by fellow teachers - what sort of professional collaboration is going on outside the purview of the principal? A simple online survey could accomplish this.

I'm even willing to suggest teachers can receive bonus commendations for going above and beyond: starting clubs, intense parent intervention, joining committees - this will of course be a small percentage, but it might change a score if someone is border line.

So the breakdown I'm thinking is this:

25% principal evaluation
25% master teacher evaluation
30% special project
10% professional demeanor
10% fellow teacher evaluation

This takes the evaluation mainly off the students and to the actual teaching of the teacher. Yes, a great teacher can make incredible strides in a year, however, if your student comes into 6th grade with a 1st grade reading level... well, only the most gifted can get them up in so little time. I've seen time and again highly successful teachers get nailed because of a bad test day for a student. It's ridiculous. And some kids don't test well - so that means what for the teacher? Because there are no anomalies or outliers you can throw out when you do this - we're talking about kids here. So they're a bad teacher, right? I don't think so.

And what about the end evaluation? Basically, it looks like this - the numbers are rough here, so if you have suggestions throw them out there
If you get
0-45% - Ineffective - first year you receive this, you go on probation, wage is frozen, and you are enrolled in intensive classes to help your weak areas. Second year of this is immediate termination. With the onus off the kids and on the teacher... if you have any idea what you're doing, you should be able to avoid this.
46%-70% - Satisfactory - no bonus, wage goes up, classes are offered to improve weak areas and you are strongly encouraged to attend
71%-85& - Above Average - smaller bonus (somewhere in the realm of 3-5k), wages go up, and classes are offered
86%-100% - Excellent/Mastery - large bonus (realm of 15k with a multiplier effect that can make it higher for consecutive years of mastery - i.e. 15 years of mastery level teaching equals a 30k bonus per year - let's face it, that's not easy. Further, younger teachers will not stay in teaching as long as previous generations.), wages go up, continued mastery means potential Master Teacher position, or option to teach intervention courses to struggling teachers.

So the last thing I want to touch on is where this money comes from - it must absolutely NOT come from the school itself. DC does this and it's a crap show. Principals will, by human nature, intentionally lower their eval scores so the money can be used in other areas. It doesn't make them bad people, just folks with a strained budget. So... where does it come from? How about you decide and post something in the comment section... I just overhauled the evaluations of teachers and feeling wiped. Back to Plants Vs. Zombies...


  1. Aaaand of course there's this dandy of an article...
    So high stakes testing has. got. to. go. Portfolio assessment by the Master Teachers would make more sense given they could compare the data of Sept testing, end of year testing, and the work presented... it would make it much much harder for a teacher to consistently cheat on assignments for portfolios... the number of kids is overwhelming.

  2. I like this, and this sort of thing might actually keep me wanting to teach. Right now, I'm phenomenally frustrated by the fact that my worth as a teacher is based on one person's subjective evaluation.
    The only change I would suggest is that in the case of the master teacher evaluation, that master teacher should be a teacher who has accrued multiple years of Excellent evaluations.

  3. That's a great suggestion! And it makes perfect sense - it's funny (in a sad way) that so much innovation can come from the teachers who are teaching right now, but we're so infrequently asked. Teaching isn't like manufacturing or hedge fund management, it requires constant redirection and idea generation from the folks on the ground.