Teacher evaluations: Is there really enough time for reliable classroom observations?

A middle school teacher I admired for her innovation pulled me aside once to tell me she was leaving the district. Her tendency to stray from the script put her at odds with the new principal.

When I shared the news later with a neighbor, an educator herself, her reaction shocked me: “Good riddance. My son never knew what was going on in that class because the teacher was always going off on a tangent.”

I learned a lesson. What’s outside-the-box teaching to one parent may be a crate of goo to the next.

Through having twins — one with a penchant for flights of fancy, the other with feet firmly planted on the ground — I have seen firsthand that personality plays a role in how well a student relates to a teacher. My son prefers strict standards, frequent quizzes and no projects that demand glue, poster boards or costumes. My daughter likes personal journals, classes that meander and any event that requires wearing a hat.

That’s why I regard promises of objective teacher evaluations with skepticism. Can teaching be reduced to a checklist of good and bad practices?

Georgia is in the midst of rolling out a new teacher evaluation system funded by the state’s $400 million Race to the Top grant. The reviews will consider student test scores, principal observations and student surveys, and assign a rating to teachers of exemplary, proficient, developing/needs improvement or unsatisfactory.

Much of what Georgia is doing aligns with the findings of a three-year, $45 million study of effective teaching by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Released earlier this month, the final report from the Gates-funded Measures of Effective Teaching Project sought to answer the question: Are seemingly more effective teachers really better than other teachers at improving student learning, or do they simply have better students?

The foundation says that some teachers are, in fact, better at raising student achievement. And those highly effective teachers can be identified and measured by multiple classroom observations, student surveys and student growth as manifested by state test scores.

In both the Gates report and Georgia’s new evaluations, observations of teachers in the classroom play a significant role in gauging effectiveness. But there are differences.

The Gates study found that an accurate observation rating for a teacher requires a review of two or more lessons, each scored by a different certified observer to minimize bias.

At this point, Georgia has no plans to bring in outsiders to assess teachers in action. Principals will conduct two 30-minute observation sessions of each teacher. They will also perform four 10-minute “walk-throughs” to see whether specific performance standards are being taught.

Simple math explains why teachers are dubious. Take a school with 100 teachers. A principal is supposed to observe each teacher for 100 minutes. That adds up to nearly 167 hours or more in  a month that the principal must devote to classroom observations in a school year. Do principals really have the time?

“It make take a culture shift, but principals have to realize that their top priority, along with ensuring their school buildings are safe, is instruction. They must make time for these teacher observations,” says Susan Andrews, Georgia Department of Education deputy superintendent for Race To The Top implementation.

The other critical factor in assessing teacher effectiveness will be student growth in test scores. For 30 percent of Georgia teachers, those scores will come from the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests given to elementary and middle school grades and the End of Course Tests given to high school students.

But 70 percent of teachers lead classes for which there are no standardized Georgia tests, including drama, art, music and foreign languages. For these non-tested subjects, the state is developing pre tests and post tests called Student Learning Objectives.

A music teacher sent me a note about the instructional time that will likely be lost due to the pre and post assessments that will be part of the Student Learning Objectives. “I think parents would be surprised to know an additional week or more now goes to test students more,” she said.

And time is a precious commodity in Georgia, where two-thirds of districts have shortened their school years to deal with budget deficits that promise only to worsen. The state has cut $5.6 billion from k-12 funding since 2003.

Building a better teacher evaluation system won’t help anyone if it depends on time and resources that aren’t realistic.

200 comments Add your comment

Middle Grades Math Teacher

January 19th, 2013
9:12 am

I’ve had these same concerns for our administration. I have a terrific principal and assistant principal who visit classrooms frequently. But these time demands are unrealistic when you consider all of the other responsibilities administrators have. Parents are unhappy when principals can’t take or return their phone call right away, for one. I would rather the time requirements be loosened for teachers who are not a concern, freeing up the administrator to spend time with teachers who need extra help.

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
9:16 am

Not too long ago there was much emphasis to “invent” “teach outside the box.” Now people are being penalised for it. I wonder how much of the “teach outside the box” was a regional thing in Georgia. I know at the training program I attended, at the time, there was much of this sort of celebratory training. This was also when the money / credit spigot was open and people were buying things, houses, cars, and pretty much everyone accepted to the teaching program was placed / hired after they completed the program. The pendulum has a wide swing. A subtext, too, is that with the evaluation emphasis, practical matter to keep teaching method “conservative.” Isn’t it odd that the Bush era (Republican) seems liberal in comparison to the current era with the corporatist direction (Gates / Duncan) ramped up and activated. It’s like Gates/Duncan can be quite liberal invading and intruding into classrooms, but teachers must be the opposite in teaching.

Tibet is continuing to go through bad times. Lots of people self-immolating there to protest heavy hand of Chinese rule. I support the teachers in Seattle with their meagre objection to being turned into teach-to-the test drones. Maybe some of them came from the “Nirvana” rock band era. It is would be difficult.

Maureen Downey

January 19th, 2013
9:18 am

@Middle, In my time in schools, I have been struck with the unpredictability of a principal’s day. She can begin with an open schedule and soon have it filled with unexpected crises, upset parents or calls from the superintendent.
Maureen

Vince

January 19th, 2013
9:35 am

ummm…..the evaluations can be done by all of the administrators in the school. In other words, the principal and the AP’s all conduct observations. Most administrators cross observe teachers so as to reduce the opportunity for bias.

confused

January 19th, 2013
9:51 am

Am I the only one who objects to administrators as observers? They are not teachers. In most cases administrators taught for very few years. They are clueless as to what goes on in the classroom. How can they possibly give valuable feedback to my teaching? Education will never get fixed until teachers are running the school.

bootney farnsworth

January 19th, 2013
10:05 am

it all depends on criteria and intended outcome.

Tony

January 19th, 2013
10:06 am

Your blog post today presents several points about evaluating teachers that must be given considerable thought. The time demands related to the current proposed processes are unrealistic. They also through the checklists and rubrics attempt to reduce teaching to a narrow construct that is not wholly supported by current neuroscientific research.

The Gates research has been agenda driven – test results should be linked to teacher evaluation. I agree that good teachers will get good test results from their students. Unfortunately, there are too many faulty assumptions associated with this agenda. You stated that art and music teachers will be judged by pre/post tests. This is a classic example of an agenda going too far. The kind of testing that is proposed for art and music runs counter to the purposes of fine arts. The students should engage in some kind of performance rather than be subjected to multiple choice tests. These new tests will force the arts teachers to spend more time on making sure students will be able to pass the multiple choice tests and students will have less time for sculpting, painting, singing, dancing, and playing instruments. We do not need to waste time and energy developing and implementing tests for these courses just so the teacher can be evaluated with test scores.

Our state has spent a great deal of time and energy chasing after these pipe dreams while they have ignored some of the most important issues facing our schools. Funding is the first that comes to mind. Cutting budgets so that districts are unable to have 180 days of school is a serious concern and leaders have already indicated for this year that they do not believe funding is an issue. Well, it is. When resources are redirected to things like test development rather than to teacher development, it is a clear sign that our leaders do not understand the needs of our schools.

What the Gates research did not report. It has been found that schools can have routine processes in place that also strongly correlate to high performance. These school culture items are not as expensive as the testing programs and they allow schools to remain focused on teaching and learning. For instance, routine common planning time where teachers are able to collaborate for planning, professional development, and evaluation of student work is a very powerful way to boost student achievement.

Another easy process for schools to put into action is something like “Response to Intervention”, commonly called RTI. When teachers work together to support students through a process like this which is routine, it translates into better learning opportunities for the students.

Creating a school environment that welcomes parents into the classrooms and activities of the school is another powerful way to improve results. Parents and teachers have common goals. They all want the students to get a good education.

I do not believe we need scripted curriculum for our schools. I do not believe that every kid needs to be tested 20 times a year. And I certainly do not believe that developing a written test for every subject we teach is appropriate.

Somewhere in all this evaluation mess I hope our leaders are able to step back and get some sense that testing and opinion polls are really not the best use of resources for teaching our students.

crankee-yankee

January 19th, 2013
10:08 am

Time is and always has been the elephant in the living room. The only way to create enough time to do this is to create more administrative (AP) posts. These new AP’s would need the training to be proficient in the evaluation system. Administrative duties would need to be separated into sub-specialties, i.e. discipline vs evaluation/staff development, etc. in order to make sure the various responsibilities are properly covered. Just dumping new responsibilities on already overworked Aps will not get the desired results. Something will have to give. History tells us everything will be negatively effected. I lump Evaluation & Staff Development together since the evaluation results would clearly point to necessary areas for improvement.

I do not see this happening. It requires an expansion of the administration cadre, money better spent replenishing that lost to curriculum & instruction over the past decade. Serious discussions need be had but the sad history in this state of short-changing education (QBE has NEVER been fully funded, not once) coupled with the recent “austerity cuts” does not bode well for the latest quick fix. Education is not a business and cannot be run like one. Until our state leaders recognize this, we will always be viewed as part of the country’s educational dregs.

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crankee-yankee

January 19th, 2013
10:18 am

“It make [sic] take a culture shift, but principals have to realize that their top priority, along with ensuring their school buildings are safe, is instruction. They must make time for these teacher observations,” says Susan Andrews, Georgia Department of Education deputy superintendent for Race To The Top implementation.

Yeah sure, and how & when exactly will the responsibilities currently handled by the administrative team be taken care of? Oh, I know, parent volunteers!

Attentive Parent/Invisible Serfs Collar

January 19th, 2013
10:23 am

I have written before that effective means effective at changing the values, attitudes, and beliefs of students. The purpose previously associated with Outcomes Based Education. That’s why MET uses the Charlotte Danielson template. She wrote the OBE classroom implementation handbook in the late 80s. Georgia’s CLASS eval is similar because Robert Pianta wrote it consistent with Virginia’s pioneering work on OBE in the early 90s. The purpose of the eval is to make sure this time the teachers are not keeping the classroom focus on in-depth content or knowledge acquisition. Just approved concepts from the frameworks and everything must be student centered and action oriented.

I had previously posted a link to UNESCO reports on this. What I have not explained is that truly effective teaching is supposed to be reaching children emotionally, spiritually, affectively. Five dimensions. What the quoted material called “heart, mind. and soul” was what it took to be an effective teacher. It’s not an intellectual exercise. It’s a transformative process meant to change the student, hopefully at the level of consciousness.

http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/truly-effective-teaching-involves-the-awakening-of-all-three-heart-mind-and-the-soul/

The teacher eval thus goes hand in hand with having performance assessments rather than the old-fashioned tests of knowledge. One enforces compliance with the transformative vision. The other measures the effect.

It’s also why both the PARCC and SBAC assessments are being created around Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge template. It is a 21st century update of OBE says both Florida and Texas officials who were using it before it became nationalized. The higher levels of DOK questions are open-ended and bring in emotion and frustration and reimagining the world and its problems.

We are entering social engineering on a mass scale. And teachers are to be forced to go along. Or find another way of making a living.

A Teacher, 2

January 19th, 2013
10:32 am

Teaching is an art, not a list of activities that can be checked off. It is highly possible that teachers that are perceived as the best in a community and that get the most out of students will fare badly in this type of evaluation. You reap what you sow. What will your school look like without your best teachers? It could happen. And happen quickly!

ScienceTeacher671

January 19th, 2013
10:37 am

Excellent comments this morning. I agree with almost all of them. (Not so sure that RTI as implemented in Georgia high schools is all that effective; it seems more of a way to socially promote students who are lacking skills, and/or avoid testing them to see if they actually have learning disabilities causing the skills deficits.)

I agree that administrators don’t have time to these observations adequately, experience has shown that Georgia is frequently not very good at developing good tests for many subjects, and it does look as if they are trying to make teachers fit into cookie-cutter molds.

Maureen, your point about the different preferences of your twins makes me wonder – rather than expecting each teacher to be all things to all students, wouldn’t it be better to (as much as possible) place students with teachers who teach like the students learn?

For some reason, we want students to be individuals. Right now, teachers? Not so much.

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
10:40 am

Completely excellent point that maybe a principals main job during the school year is working with students and parents per circumstances. This is the core of what a good caring principals does.

The teacher core is supposed to be decided on during the summer / down time when the principal and office staff still work, and then during the school year, once you have the best staff possible, turn them loose to do their thing. You’re not supposed to be coming in the middle of the year and interrupting class and teaching and telling teachers what to do. If there is no crisis and someone is not a right fit, you deal with it during the summer or after the school year ends. If a talented teach could have better post or fit, they should be accommodated. This maintains the talent integrity and morale of the teacher core. (corps?)

teacher&mom

January 19th, 2013
10:51 am

““It make take a culture shift, but principals have to realize that their top priority, along with ensuring their school buildings are safe, is instruction. They must make time for these teacher observations,” says Susan Andrews, Georgia Department of Education deputy superintendent for Race To The Top implementation.”

@Maureen: Could you please find out if Ms. Andrews has ever worked as a principal or AP? If so, at what grade level and how long?

While quality instruction should be an administrators first priority, I think Ms. Andrews is very naive about the daily demands of an administrator. I wonder if she realizes the MANY hats a principal in a rural district must wear.

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
10:54 am

A Teacher, 2 I think the central command Gates / Duncan could care less about having the best teachers. They just want to regulate income streams and get that money. The Neo-Cons / Neo-Liberals destroy a lot of things. Do you remember a decade or 15 years ago when the nice things started going away? I do. One of the thing that was taken away was music when Reagan changed the anti-trust laws that protected from centralised ownership of media. There were 1800 telephone companies in 1975 and today there is one wired internet provider, Comcast. BellSouth does not want to provide wired DSL and is rolling up services. Vint Cerf from Google recently made the exact same observation about phone companies circa 1975 compared with wired internet monopoly today. People! See it! Gates in an experienced corporatist / monopolist. Most of that stuff from Microsoft is because they went around and bought everything up, it is not because they did the work. He’s doing the same thing with education. Caution. Beware.

Dr. Monica Henson

January 19th, 2013
11:14 am

“Can teaching be reduced to a checklist of good and bad practices?” Of course not, and effective evaluation systems do not purport this. Most instructional practices K-12 in current use are not inherently “good” or “bad”–they depend on many contextual factors, such as the frequency and extent of their use. Whether a practice is “good” or “bad” cannot be determined for a particular teacher without looking at the outcomes produced by the combination of practices the teacher selects. If a high school teacher relies on lecture predominantly, and the majority of the students are scoring well on state exams, and classroom grades are consistent with state exams (meaning that the teacher isn’t handing out As and Bs to students who proceed to fail the state exams), then that teacher should not be “marked down” for using lecture. I can assure that those teachers are few & far between, and it’s the teacher’s personality and other intangible factors that make the lectures worthwhile. Lecture typically puts most learners to intellectual sleep after about 10 to 15 minutes.

“At this point, Georgia has no plans to bring in outsiders to assess teachers in action.”

Simply not true. Our school is a member of the TKES/LKES pilot cohort. We have accepted GaDOE’s offer to bring in evaluation specialists to provide formative observations in order for us (and them) to gauge inter-rater reliability. There is also nothing preventing districts from engaging the services of outside evaluators, getting them trained in TKES/LKEs, and having them assist in the observations.

“Take a school with 100 teachers. A principal is supposed to observe each teacher for 100 minutes. That adds up to nearly 167 hours or more in a month that the principal must devote to classroom observations in a school year.”

A school with 100 teachers likely has at least two assistant principals, along with department chairs and/or lead teachers. All of those people would be evaluators, not just the principal alone. 167 hours in a month divided by just the principal and 2 APs would reduce the time commitment to 56 hours a month per evaluator. Add in four content area department chairs and one special education department chair (for a high school), and you’ve reduced the time commitment to 21 hours a month per evaluator. In a four-week month, each evaluator has 160 working hours to spend. 21 hours out of 160 is less than 15% of their working time. That’s not asking too much to spend that time on the single most important priority any school leader should have.

crankee-yankee

January 19th, 2013
11:15 am

Private Citizen
January 19th, 2013
10:54 am

You know, there is a word beginning with the letter “P” that describes people who think there is a conspiracy behind every door.

Wait for it…

Perceptive.

(thank you Woody Allen)

Dr. Monica Henson

January 19th, 2013
11:18 am

Middle Grades Math Teacher posted, “Parents are unhappy when principals can’t take or return their phone call right away, for one. I would rather the time requirements be loosened for teachers who are not a concern, freeing up the administrator to spend time with teachers who need extra help.”

First, the principal needs to educate parents early on that s/he is not available to take non-emergency phone calls during the school day, because s/he is going to spending time in classrooms observing instrution, among other important instructional leadership duties. It’s not inappropriate for parents to be expected to leave a message, with the call to be returned in a business day. And it’s also not inappropriate for the principal to delegate some of those returned calls to whomever really needs to tend to the issue.

I do agree with the concept that teachers who reach the “Exemplary” tier of practice don’t need the same number & frequency of observations as those in the lower tiers. They also should be freed up and trained as evaluators so they can provide formative observations and feedback to “Ineffective” and “Needs Development” teachers. I believe they should be provided the authority to direct the work of those teachers as well.

Dr. Monica Henson

January 19th, 2013
11:24 am

@teacher & mom, Dr. Andrews was an elementary school teacher and principal before becoming a superintendent. She is well-acquainted with the demands of a rural principal–she worked in Harris County, a district of only 5,000 students, before she became superintendent in Muscogee County.

Dr. Monica Henson

January 19th, 2013
11:28 am

Dr. Andrews put in 35 years in education, most of which were at the school level, not central office. I respect and admire her, and I share her conviction that school administrators must reassess their priorities and put teaching and learning at the top of their to-do lists.

I used to make a point at the beginning of every school year, when I was a principal, to talk with the superintendent, other central office folks, the mayor, the PTA president, et al, to let them know that if they phoned me during the school day, I generally would not be available because I would be spending a lot of time in my teachers’ classrooms. I never had any of them object. My superintendents knew that if they indicated it was urgent, I’d call them back right away.

I also took time in the school newsletter, open house, etc., to let parents know that I don’t take calls during the school day, and it might be a business day before I would be able to return calls. I rarely had parents complain that I was unreachable or aloof.

10:10 am

January 19th, 2013
11:30 am

Not long after parents are finally free to send their children to the school of their choice, people will marvel at the time and resources—now squandered prolonging monopoly control of K-12 education.

Except, of course, for Maureen and the teachers’ union cabal.

Dr. Monica Henson

January 19th, 2013
11:33 am

I’ll reiterate once again that GaDOE’s Teacher and Leader Effectiveness division’s training emphasizes frequently that the rubrics are NOT to be used as checklists. Administrators who do so are misusing the instrument. That doesn’t make TKES/LKES a “bad” system–it does underscore the fact that many (most, in my informed opinion) administrators seek the path of least time commitment when it comes to the most important part of their job. That’s a leader evaluation issue–and whether it gets resolved is a board of education/charter board issue of how they evaluate their superintendents/directors as instructional leaders.

ElemPrincipal

January 19th, 2013
11:49 am

@private citizen: “You’re not supposed to be coming in the middle of the year and interrupting class and teaching and telling teachers what to do. If there is no crisis and someone is not a right fit, you deal with it during the summer or after the school year ends” Really??

Most of us are in classrooms every day – some visits or for the full thirty minute observations, some visits are just walk-throughs to see how things are going, some visits are “official” walk-throughs for an announced purpose, some visits are to check on cronic behavior problems…but all are necessary and a vital part of the job.

If I am not in the classrooms daily, how would I know about a “crisis?” How would I know about the teacher who uses only outdated worksheets to “teach” content? How would I know about the teacher who spends her instructional time shopping on-line? How would I know about the wonderful things that happen in classrooms daily? How would I know who belongs on the “best staff possible?” How would I know about the needs of our school and our teachers?

You would really want me to leave a teacher who is ineffective in October in the classroom until May? You would prefer that a principal never be able to recognize a teacher for an outstanding instructional strategy? (After all, you can’t recognize what you have not seen!) You would prefer the teachers to never see the principal as an instructional asset to the school?

It is not about interrupting a class or telling a teacher what to do, it is about protecting and improving what I hold dear – the children, the teachers, and the instructional integrity of our school.

As for the time this takes, it is overwhelming. There are days when I don’t answer an email or read anything from the stack of papers on my desk until all the teachers are gone and it is just me and the custodians. Sometimes it is the quiet of Saturday morning before I can make heads or tails of what is on my desk. Most days I arrive in the dark and leave in the dark. But it is my job.

I just wish our legislators would reinstate the more than $10,000 that has been cut from my salary in the 4 years.

crankee-yankee

January 19th, 2013
11:58 am

10:10 am
January 19th, 2013
11:30 am

troll

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
12:05 pm

crankee yankee. Currently the USA is at the top of every crummy list, all of this is well documented. With the central owned media talking at you, there’s no reason to cover it in the news. USA is the #1 in the world in:
1. higher ed debt (currently at one trillion dollars)
2. most people, per capita, in prisons and jails.
3. highest cost of health care, combined with limited distribution of services
4. top of list for income disparity between rich and poor.
5. social mobility. low percentage of movement in financial caste.

If you can make any sense of it, let me know. Nice bit of poetry, by the way. Here’s something on corporate ecosystems for your weekend: Alexandra Morton on the Corporation – https://soundcloud.com/gift-account/alexandra-morton-on-the-corporation

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
12:15 pm

ElemPrincipal, Really?? Yes, really. Point is, your staff if supposed to be capable. For the well-being of classroom integrity, you leave them be and let them do their thing. In my experience, this is how it works in the highest performing environments. Not just really, but absolutely. Now (I’m gonna say it) if you’re going to be all up in everybody’s nose like a Kleenex and you want to hang around in the classroom, maybe you ought to be a teacher. Yes, let me think for a minute and reverse my mental video of personal experience in absolutely top schools. (School 1, 2, 3). Absolutely. Never once saw an administrator in a classroom to hang around, to observer, to visit. Didn’t happen. So, if you’ve never heard of this way of doing things, I am honored to tell you it exists. Maybe each day was so precious, every one knew not to interrupt it. By the way, at a couple of schools the top administrator (there were few to begin with) also taught a class.

Educationus interruptus? No, thank you.

crankee-yankee

January 19th, 2013
12:36 pm

Private Citizen
January 19th, 2013
12:05 pm

Since you didn’t get it the first time, I will point out that I was agreeing with you.

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
12:41 pm

If I am not in the classrooms daily, how would I know about a “crisis?”

Crises tend to be self evident. Despite what many think, you do not have to surveille for them. That is one point why the principal is supposed to me in the office like an anchor. People know where to find them as needed. Maybe the worst thing that ever happened to K12 education was the invention of the Motorola radio. Now admin can hop around like busybodies running a flea market with their prop, the Motorola radio.

How would I know about the teacher who uses only outdated worksheets to “teach” content?

Personally, I’ve never seen a math worksheet that is “outdated.” I’ve seen at least one really terrible math textbook, though. Maybe you should not micro-manage methods, and look at results, instead, Teacher should have autonomy during the school year. There are other ways to know things beside survielling classrooms. Like having “lead teachers” or “dept. heads” who know what’s going on. That’s their job, you know? That they’re paid to do. If you actually provided materials like a professional environment, you would be trying to micromanage if teachers were using outdated worksheets and scapegoating teachers who have to make their own materials because you do not provide them, or have a department concept. That’s the real deal, not stamping on people’s toes on the bottom. The truthy is if you’re not providing workbooks and materials, I don’t think you have any right to fault a teacher whether they are teaching from a worksheet or a piece of cork.

How would I know about the teacher who spends her instructional time shopping on-line?

Server logs. You never should have hired a person like that to begin with and you should know the difference and be able to evaluate their ability and credentials on the front end when you hire them. You seem like you’re in the business or feel the need to try and catch people doing things, in place of having competent staff that you trust as performing professionals.

How would I know about the wonderful things that happen in classrooms daily?

What, are you a voyeur? Yes, magic moments happen in the classroom. Maybe that is why at some schools the administrators teach a class. Most high performing classes are not real magical. They’re quite and kids are reading or solving problems math / science. Go hang out at a science lab in the adult world and see how magical it is. It is dull and quiet and the work that is going on is in someone’s head. If you need more, have a language teacher produce a play and work with the music teacher to make it a musical.

How would I know who belongs on the “best staff possible?”

To answer you plainly, the best schools do not do teacher and awards. This type of childishness is noisy and takes up air time. It is a distraction from mission. No one wants it or believe in this type of thing. Hospital ERs do not have a little party for “best doctor.” If you are required for such, have teachers vote on it, but it is a bad idea.

How would I know about the needs of our school and our teachers?

Ask the teachers.

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
12:43 pm

crankee yankee, Many thank you’s. for real. I’m not trying to be obscure. Yes, and that was a fine bit of art, the timing, the pause. Well done.

Lee

January 19th, 2013
12:48 pm

Interesting. Yesterday we had a blog topic about teachers who didn’t want to give tests. Today, we have a topic about principals who “don’t have time” to do teacher evaluations.

Gee, I don’t know why parents are clamoring for vouchers, charter schools, private schools, hell, ANYTHING to get their kids away from traditional public schools.

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
12:50 pm

ElemPrincipal, I realise you likely have all manner of outside directorates you are supposed to follow, are required to do. My heart goes out to you and sincere wishes of “good luck” with your mission.

Ed Johnson

January 19th, 2013
12:50 pm

“Creating a school environment that welcomes parents into the classrooms and activities of the school is another powerful way to improve results. Parents and teachers have common goals. They all want the students to get a good education.”
–Tony @ 10:06 am

For example,

http://realparentpower.com/

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
12:56 pm

PS When I think of my own elementary education, the teachers were what I would call “battle axes.” Trust me, they didn’t need any help in the classroom, they had it covered. We also had art class with messy painting activities for relief from the stern home room. This is at a government school. It was very consistent and the principal was in the office. That’s where you went when you (student) really messed up and it was a scary thing, although they were a nice person. One time I bloodied the neighbor kid’s nose because he was putting his fingers in the water fountain and I jabbed back with my elbow. It was a complete accident but I was the one accountable. This resulted in two whacks with the paddle and then it was done.

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
1:05 pm

ElemPrincipal,
You would really want me to leave a teacher who is ineffective in October in the classroom until May?

You need to take some responsibility for hiring such a person to begin with. I think you should turn them loose for the whole year. Principals should absolutely not be thinking they can subjectively tool teachers around. Absolutely not. No way. It is you who should suffer through it and maybe have your act together the next time you hire someone. It’s not like you have a shortage of applicants.

You would prefer that a principal never be able to recognize a teacher for an outstanding instructional strategy?

That is correct. Your teacher corps should be consistent. To any intelligent person, one person’s outstanding is another’s person what nothing to do with. Good teachers are high intellect persons and want nothing to do with these invented games playing around with people. It is wrong to do this, it is childish and it really means you do not have anything better to do with your time, like reading an article on how to hire good talent. And no one wants to work in an environment that is seeded with hype and hierarchy where there should be none.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

January 19th, 2013
1:06 pm

I have never understood why teachers who have been rated as Proficient/Exemplary or the equivalent year after year need to keep being evaluated every year. It is a waste of everyone’s time. If you want to drop into my classroom, please do, at any time – principals SHOULD drop by occasionally, not to “evaluate” per se, but to get a feel for teaching styles, student interaction, etc. They should walk the halls, and be seen by staff and students. This can help build community. (Of course, this is supposing the principal is a good one, and not a disruptive presence… which leads to the whole, “Who evaluates the principals?” question – but that is a whole other can of worms…) This helps principals better understand their staff’s strengths and weaknesses, better place students, and deal with problems if they should arise.

However, tthe “official” evaluations, which require reams of paperwork and hours of pre-planning, pre meetings, post meetings etc., are just draining for both teachers and principals.

In my opinion, new teachers should be evaluated two to three times a year, and the results used to help guide them towards effective teaching practices (if needed). Such evaluations should be done by different individuals, including the principal, AP and a mentor educator. After a few years’ satisfactory evaluations, this could be cut back to once a year. Then, at the five year mark, once every other year. At the 10 year mark, once every three years. Then principals could concentrate on helping mentor and monitor those educators who are either new, or need guidance. If a problem arises, a teacher moves grade levels, or a new principal arrives, then the schedule could increase for a few years, until the teacher or teachers have again proven effective.

Negative evaluations should require a second evaluation by an outside representative WHO HAS EXPERIENCE WITH THE TEACHER’S SUBJECT AREA in order to remove any suggestion of evaluator bias. If both evaluators agree there if a problem, then the teacher should be given assistance and support. If improvement does not occur, then steps should be taken to either move the teacher to a position where they might be more successful (a great high school teacher might stink in K-3) or to fire them.

It really does not seem like rocket science.

Georgia coach

January 19th, 2013
1:07 pm

Well, private citizen, you have plenty of advice on leading a school when you have never done so. Is that your problem? Are you a wannabe administrator?

Tony

January 19th, 2013
1:09 pm

Private Citizen – I’m not sure why you’re going off on ElemPrincipal, but your remarks are absolutely false when it comes to high performing schools and the principal being in the classroom.

As a principal, I am also frequently in the classroom. Not as a policeman to make sure everyone is on the right page of the company playbook, but as a leader. This is part of creating a culture where high expectations exist for all.

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
1:17 pm

Ed Johnson, nobody wants parents in the classroom. Kids, teachers, and parents all have their roles. You seem to want to “mix it up.” For me, as a kid in high performing schools, how many times was a parent in a classroom. Never. Therefore, my own experience based on environment that produces results is completely opposite of what you are promoting. ‘hope you understand. Are you in the business of being a “repeater” or concepts or information? What you advocate is an example of poor boundaries. Shops used to have signs on the wall “Extra cost if you want to watch me work.” If you’re a plumber, do you want the client hanging around while you solder copper? I know it sounds all interesting. Anyway, mom and dad are supposed to have their own lives and be producing. Which reminds me, Imma outta here.

ElemPrincipal

January 19th, 2013
1:21 pm

Private Citizen… Please understand that I am not trying to goad you into an argument. I really want to know how you believe teacher quality can be determined if the principal never visits the classroom. I’ve seen folks with multiple degrees and wonderful interviewing skills who don’t know how to teach.

I asked you several questions that you did not address. What prevents a teacher from becoming a “worksheet queen” if no one ever visits the classroom? How would I know if a teacher is spending all of his/her time on Facebook or Retail Me Not, if I don’t visit the classroom.

And please don’t tell me that because I’ve picked the best staff during the summer that shouldn’t be a problem. I know of few principals who get to choose every teacher in their building. One constant theme on this blog is that administrators don’t get rid of bad teachers. How would we know who the bad teachers are if we aren’t in classrooms?

The picture you seem to have is that when I enter a classrom that all teaching/learning stops and that the only way a school can be an “absolutely top school” is for the administration to stay in the office. When I enter a classroom, it is rare for the teacher to stop teaching or for the students to stop what they are doing. I slip in, sit down, and watch.

And by the way…I will always be a teacher and I do teach a class in my school. My teachers say it is what makes me good at my job, because I never forget what it is like to be in the classroom.

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
1:24 pm

Tony, I’m not going off on anyone. I’ve just seen it done differently. I realise, fictionally, you could probably assemble a hundred principals who have similar concept about “being in the classroom to assure high results.” It’s like you have no confidence in your staff. I find it weird and intrusive. I assure you there are plenty of places that do not operate that way, both in education and business. Allow me to look up the definition of micro-managing.

I mean, boom! that’s it: In business management, micromanagement is a management style whereby a manager closely observes or controls the work of subordinates or employees.

You’ll need to be a courageous person to read through this link. Do you have the courage? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micromanagement

PS thank you for helping to define things.

Private Citizen

January 19th, 2013
1:25 pm

Pardon, I didn’t close the “bold” html tag.

Tallcarl

January 19th, 2013
1:34 pm

I teach students of other native languages (TEFL) and once taught sixth grade Special- Ed. in a Georgia public school. The school I worked for last year often exchanged teachers after the end of a Module especially if there had been a complaint from a student. I often use subject materials outside of the textbook for reading and the writing for their classroom presentations. My problem was there are always those students (especially in their culture) that are accustomed to ´by-the-book´ teachers and those sometimes complained. Is was gratifying in December when two of those transferred students came back to ask me to remain at the school because they wanted to come back to my class even though they had been the two to complain. They admitted that I was the best English teacher they had ever had. Too late, too little, I have a better offer two blocks from home as opposed to 5 hours. I hope they learned a new lesson from this, the grass is not always greener. Oh, well I will have to explain that expression to them if I ever see them again.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

January 19th, 2013
1:37 pm

Yes, there is enough time for classroom observations.

No, there is not enough time for those observations to be meaningful.

Colonel Jack

January 19th, 2013
1:42 pm

Dr. Henson…as I said in another blog topic, I think you are a remarkable administrator and I do indeed wish I’d had you as my instructional leader. You seem to be very much aware of the fact that most administrators use the evaluation instrument as a checklist. But it does not matter why they do so – whether it is ineptness, laziness, or just the crunch of time – if that use results in a competent teacher losing his or her job. There’s no justification for that, and for the teacher who is so wrongly penalized, there’s no coming back, either. (Readers, try to find a job with that on your record. No, wait. I’ll save you the trouble. You won’t find a job with that on your record.)

It doesn’t matter if the evaluation is TKES, Class Keys, the GTDRI, whatever. As long as it’s being used as a checklist (which, as Dr. Henson agrees, MOST administrators do), it is NOT a valid evaluation. The instrument itself may be wonderful, as I understand TKES/LKES is (despite my own extremely unpleasant results with it), but in the wrong hands – or used for the wrong reasons – it’s just another club with which to beat teachers over the head. A scalpel is an instrument of healing in the hands of a surgeon; in the hands of a killer, it’s just another knife.

10:10 am

January 19th, 2013
1:47 pm

crankee-yankee
January 19th, 2013
11:58 am

egoistic twit

Attentive Parent/Invisible Serfs Collar

January 19th, 2013
1:52 pm

put teaching and learning at the top of their to-do lists.

Just one point in connection with Monica Henson’s posts–”teaching and learning” is a defined term as in Standards for Teaching and Learning that is intricately caught up in the OBE practices being measured under these effective teaching criteria. It was originally created in Chicago with initial funding from the Joyce Foundation.

It is expressly not about the transmission of knowledge and is actually grounded in sociocultural theory.

I know you will be shocked, shocked I have the book. It is also expressly based in John Dewey’s theories for Social Reconstruction via education.

According to the book.

ElemPrincipal

January 19th, 2013
2:12 pm

Sorry…I guess our comments crossed paths in cyberspace

Private citizen…

do you really think we get to make ALL the hiring decisions? I came into a school with a full staff. I didn’t hire anyone in the building. If I had hired a bad teacher and I was the only one who suffered from leaving him/her in the classroom, that would be a different situation. But that is not the way it is. The students are the ones who suffer and I am not willing to allow that to happen.

In our school there are no department heads or lead teachers. I do have a leadership team and they tell me weekly about needs in our school.

You apparently have a lot of answers without really having the knowledge of what happens in an elementary school. You make a lot of assumptions based on your personal experience.

The teachers in my school do not lack for materials, however, if we did, do you really think it is a decision the principal makes? While I have do have some authority over my budget, I can only make it stretch so far. I do not know a single principal who holds money back for personal reasons while allowing their teachers/students to do without.

I have never ’scapegoated” a teacher for making their own materials. I applaud them for searching for new and creative ways to teach.

Sever logs, uh? Let’s see. If teachers are all professionals, and they are all doing what they are supposed to do, why would I look at server logs if I haven’t been out of my office? I did spend quite a bit of time with server logs recently, but only after I observed a teacher in her classroom and discovered that every time I walked by the room she was on her computer instead of teaching. Not sure how I would have known that if I was always in my office.

Are you really so intent on making me wrong that you don’t recognize your own statements? You are the one who said I should assemble the “best staff possible” during the summer. When I asked you how to do that without observing teachers, you came back with a rant about teacher awards and recognition.

I don’t know where you teach or if you really do teach, but I can tell you that the teachers in my building enjoy recognition for what they do. Notes of appreciation, a shout out in our newletter, a shared observation in a faculty meeting – I can’t give them the pay increase they deserve but can make the feel appreicated for the job they do.

As for the voyuer comment – yes, maybe I am. You see, I love the look on the face of a child who has just learned a new word and wants to share it. My soul is fed when I hear a student get the opportunity to explain share their thoughts about a book they have read with the rest of the class. I get excited when children work together to solve a complex math problem. There is nothing like the ooh and aahs of children doing science experiment. But I also look on a teacher’s face when she realizes that the student she has been working with suddenly “get it!” I relish the opportunity to celebrate the success of a well-planned lesson.

I have too much to do to continue this conversation, and it is more than obvious that you have never, and I pray will never, be in the position I am in. I wish you the best of luck.

hind tit

January 19th, 2013
2:13 pm

Aki

January 19th, 2013
2:18 pm

@ElemPrincipal- you are spot on. YOU SHOULD be in the classrooms. EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. Those kids need to know that you care about what they’re doing and those teachers who are teaching well need to know that YOU know what they’re doing and that you care about what goes on in those classrooms. Keep up the good work and don’t be discouraged by the paper pushers and the bubble fillers.