Not all teacher evaluations
are created equal. Each state and school district has different policies concerning how teacher evaluations are carried out. Unfortunately, in many areas teacher evaluations have turned into an ineffective system that gives neither the teacher or the administration
any real idea on how a teacher is really doing. This is often caused by a combination of ineffective evaluation tools, lack of administrator training, and too much 'preparation' on the part of the teacher for the visit. Let's look at each of these in turn.
Issues With Teacher Evaluations
- Ineffective Evaluation Tools - Administrators typically have a form that they fill out as they complete a classroom observation for teachers. In many cases, these are very clinical and provide little guidance for teacher improvement. Therefore, it is key for districts to carefully review these forms with the teacher in mind, ensuring they provide helpful and distinct information for the creation of an action plan to help improve teaching.
- Lack of Administrator Training - When new tools are introduced in a district, there is usually a training session where the administrators are taught how to use these tools. However, sometimes these are quite cursory. Further, if an administrator is distracted or it has been many years since the training was completed, they might not use the tools as they were intended.
- Too Much 'Preparation' by the Teacher - Spontaneous and unannounced classroom observations are not the norm in many school districts around the nation. This is can sometimes be a part of the agreement between the school district and the teacher's union concerning teacher rights. However, what results is that many teachers know exactly when to expect the administrator for their observation. Instead of the administrator seeing a typical lesson and day's teaching, they are seeing their best. It can sometime happen that poor teachers really shine on their observation day because of the extra effort in planning and varying instruction. Some teachers even tell their students about the observation and provide them with incentives in exchange for good behavior.
All of the above issues can lead to a substandard teacher evaluation system. So how can we go about improving teacher evaluations? Following are a couple of ideas that could have a positive impact on the effectiveness of the teacher evaluation system.
Suggestions for Improvement
- Teachers Must Take Evaluations In the Correct Spirit - Like it or not, we as teachers need to expect that we need to be observed and evaluated in order to improve. Self evaluation can be difficult, especially when faced with a challenging situation in the classroom. Having another set of eyes involved can really help teachers improve their teaching abilities and situation. According to the Met Project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, feedback from accurate teacher observations have been shown to improve student success.
- Principals Must Take Teacher Evaluations Seriously - By this I do NOT mean that they need to use it punitively. Instead, it should be something that they know can really help their teachers improve. It should not be seen as an unpleasant duty but instead something that can really help their students learn and achieve more.
- Teachers and Principals Should Set Mutual Goals Before the Evaluation - Instead of just having a principal show up to evaluate you out of the blue, it would be much more beneficial if you could have a meeting before the observation to discuss issues, concerns, and mutual goals. No two classes are the same; Some have more issues than others based on student personalities, level of class, and time of the day. Helping a principal understand the classroom situation prior to the observation can have a huge impact on the quality of the results. In addition, if you both talked about your mutual goals for the observation, it can help you work as a team to improve the overall situation.
- Teachers and Principals Should Form a Plan of Action After the Evaluation - The teacher and the administrator should sit down and discuss the observation together. They should discuss any specific actions that the teacher could take to improve their teaching. This should not be done in a spirit of negativity or in a punitive manner, but instead should be approached for the mutual benefit of the students.
Teachers evaluations can be a touchy subject. It can be scary for new teachers and veteran teachers alike, especially when it involves a new tool or administrator. However, it is an important part of growing as a teacher. Nonetheless, if it is used inappropriately it is worthless and possibly harmful. It should not be used as a punitive measure but instead should be used to help increase the effectiveness of the teacher's day-to-day interaction with students. Increasing the quality of the education our students receive requires cooperation between principals, teachers, parents, and the society at large. Increasing the effectiveness of teacher evaluations is one small but key step in a much larger process of providing our students the best education possible.