Every teacher evaluation system that I have been apart of has been implemented with the best of intentions. Administrators don’t start their day trying to think of ways to make teacher’s lives more difficult, yet the amount of compliance typically built into an evaluation system does just that. I was recently speaking with a teacher who informed me she has put 60 hours into one of the systems put in place to evaluate her teaching, and she was concerned that she hadn’t done enough. To me, that’s 60 hours she could have been spending on professional development that would ultimately have more of an effect on her teaching and students than what she spent that time on. Yesterday, I was looking for a quote and happened to come across this:
There are teacher evaluation systems in place that, frankly, send the message to teachers that we don’t trust them. Often what happens in districts is that we implement initiatives to bring up our most struggling teachers instead of having the tough conversations and providing professional support and coaching they need, and in doing so, the compliance measures built into the evaluation systems ultimately bring down our highest flyers as we take their choices away. There needs to be systems in place to evaluate teacher effectiveness. No doubt. But evaluation systems based on compliance measures are like giving students points for putting their name on a paper (*gasp*). They leave very little for teachers to be proud of or learn from, and rarely do they truly show what a teacher is (or isn’t) capable of. Generally, I’ve found that there is little to no buy-in in the process.
Another side-effect of compliance dominate evaluation systems is the amount of competition that eventually develops between teachers. One district I taught in had a system where teachers received merit pay based on their evaluation, but there was only so much money to be given. Teachers became competitive and collaboration opportunities were scarce. Awesome lessons were hoarded instead of shared, and the climate of the school became “every man/woman for themselves” Hunger Games mentality. Teachers wanted the additional pay, and nobody can blame them, but the evaluation system was backfiring because it was not supporting collaboration or learning for the sake of getting better for the students.
Again, there needs to be evaluation systems, but the systems should be in place so that the work being accomplished holds some sort of value outside of additional pay or just keeping your place as a “teacher in good standing”. For example, if teachers kept an online portfolio in the form of a blog, this would serve to increase reflection, the sharing of ideas, and collaboration outside the confines of the district. The work being done would be an authentic assessment of the teachers’ ability, and would be shared with more than just the admin (exactly like we desire our students to have the opportunity to showcase their work for more than just their teacher). There wouldn’t be a date in which administrators would see what has been going on all year because anyone at anytime could read about the awesome learning going on in a classroom at any given time. Reflections would be timely, personalized to what the teacher is currently improving on in their practice, and a logbook of accomplishments and growth over time.
When people feel like something they are asked to do isn’t of value to their performance, they may do it to comply with the order, but it will never become part of what they do to become a better professional. We need to provide teachers with opportunities to show how awesome they are in a way that will help them become better professionals, and begin to trust that they are doing their job.