I have taken of contact I still have within the profession to gather some initial feedback from the new teacher evaluation plan being administered by the State through District administrators. I certainly hope that the State, or at the very least a group of districts, will conduct focus groups to learn more about how well the process is being done. My first impressions are not positive; I am hoping to gather more comprehensive information to share with you in the next few weeks.
One initial concern is that the emphasis of this program is on accountability and not on using these clinical observations to improve the performance of teachers. This is the "gotcha" concern I spoke about last Spring. There is certainly nothing wrong with increased accountability, especially in courses not covered by the State's HSPA exam. But given the limited time and resources districts have to implement the program, it is important that teachers feel that they are benefitting professionally from the evaluation.
Second, the time demands created by this process will affect the aforementioned problem. Some districts have actually hired additional supervisors with the sole mission of providing clinical evaluations, and that is a remarkably positive thing. It would be great if the State mandated this hiring for all districts.
Just as administrators are hampered by the constraints of time, so are teachers. This has led many teachers to voice a concern that their ability to construct effective and comprehensive lesson plans has been compromised, and that they often will take a risk averse path to curriculum writing.
And third, since the HSPA and ASK exams are limited to math and language arts, the percentages assigned to each portion of their evaluation are different from other teachers. With more of their evaluation linked to the CCCS and student performance on the tests, these teachers are not only additionally burdened, but their work is now inextricably linked to these tests and likely to lack the creativity and sophistication we hope to get from our professional educators.
From everything I have learned, teachers were left out of the policy making process, at least to the point where they feel some ownership of the finished product. This lack of ownership invariably reduces the feeling that the evaluation is a legitimate work product. This will have a cascade effect on the policy and lead to disaffection that was never needed. Let us hope that after this second year our policy makers will see fit to reassess the standards and the process that currently exists. I am in favor of increasing the accountability and performance of teachers, but they deserve respect as professionals in the creation of this product.