This post is in a series about my experience at the inaugural Teaching and Learning Conference in Washington, DC March 13-15, 2014. These posts are not endorsed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards nor the fine folks at the Teaching and Learning Conference. They consist entirely of my opinion. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.
March 14, 2014
Charlotte Danielson - Teacher Evaluation
This session specifically focused upon Teacher Evaluation and the Common Core with the key focus: "Accountability and the Common Core: Are they Compatible?"
This was a panel session with Ms. Danielson, principals and National Board Certified Teachers. Below are my notes from this session.
It began with a picture on the screen of two trains colliding and the key focus question. Ms. Danielson pointed out that the Common Core and Accountability/Teacher Evaluation could be seen in one of two ways:
1) A train wreck (hence the picture)
2) Two huge, parallel initiatives
Let's see them as a Merger. This involves:
- understanding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
- considering instructional implications
- creating a version of the Framework for Teaching (FFT) that reflects teaching to and of the CCSS
- ensure teacher quality
- promote professional learning
Accountability is not enough. We have to move the curve [bell curve] of teaching so the majority are effective to highly effective.
Evaluation system becomes a numbers game which is not what the systems were designed for.
"We have become trapped in a vortex of rating and ranking" -- Charlotte Danielson
The FFT is generic but CCSS are specific to a discipline/level
Most principals are experts at running a school but not at all pedagogical practices
Vast majority of teachers are at an acceptable level
Challenge becomes moving a few teachers from mediocre to good but moving many more from good to great--this will move the curve
Generic tool like this (the FFT) can and should be used for discharging Human Resource requirements of evaluation. We need to produce smaller, discipline specific tools for coaching rather than evaluation.
Wyoming Accountability Act (shared by a panelist who is an NBCT)
- Tying student achievement to Teacher of Record
- adapted the Common Core at the same time and had to decide which was the most important to develop first
- Teachers are stressed out wondering if their ranking will end up in the newspaper
Another NBCT on the panel proclaimed "My students are not a number. My teaching is not a number." (Amen, sista!)
What about teachers who are struggling? What about evaluators who are biased? (Sadly this has happened to teachers I know -- their administrator doesn't like them so they are basically found at fault for many things and/or given the short end of the stick. Grade Level Shuffle anyone??)
To truly change it all, we need coaches on site for all subject areas. Evaluations are, sadly, mostly punitive.
What do we want our kids to be like when they graduate? Metacognitive and know-how in Arts/Technology
PLC model -- you will get more out of it when you truly have some ownership in the model. We want to create reflective practitioners with reflection not tied to evaluation.
Coaching so all teachers can see good teaching and transfer that teaching. Don't penalize teachers for trying something new that flops or doesn't go well.
One panelist shared that they use multiple raters (teacher colleagues) who observe, take notes, look at the evidence and then have a conversation to mutually determine the teacher's rating on that ONE lesson.
I have long said that in order for teacher evaluations to truly be meaningful, we need to let teacher's evaluate each other. I know that scares some people but think about it. I'm teaching 4th grade and have a 1st grade and 5th grade colleague come in to do my observation at the same time. They both take their own notes and after the observation they sit together and compare what they saw, the actual evidence they gathered and determine a rating for the teacher on that particular lesson only. I have always thought it was a total gyp to have my entire evaluation be based upon two measly observations. (My very first observation at my current school, when I started there 4 years ago, lasted 5 minutes. Seriously. 5 minutes. And my administrator wasn't in my room again until May when she did my last one. How do you know what I'm doing, ever, if you have no presence?)
People are afraid of this idea. I know they are...BUT I also know how much more effective it would be to truly have someone who does the same job I do all day evaluate a lesson I taught. No, maybe that 1st grade teacher wouldn't necessarily know my content or have any idea about teaching the big guys if s/he had never done it themselves, but they are in the trenches of teaching every day -- so much moreso than an administrator is -- and would be more realistic and have a better idea of current best practices. In addition that rating should ONLY reflect THAT LESSON. Because let's be real...we all have crappy days. I have had days as a teacher (even though with that coveted NBCT behind my name) where I know I wasn't at my best. I'm just a person. I'm not a miracle worker. I get worn down too. I wouldn't want an evaluation to show I was minimally effective or even ineffective because I had an off day and that's what they are getting at here.
Honestly, while it's nice to hear something I did well during a lesson from someone else, I take the whole evaluation process with a grain of salt...because it usually has focused entirely upon rating me based upon ONE observation or TWO if I'm lucky. (Sidenote: not true this year, Mr. Principal visits our rooms quite often and leaves us notes about what he is seeing us do well or will leave a "wondering" if he isn't sure how what he saw is tied to anything meaningful. In other words, he doesn't want to walk by and see you randomly showing a movie mid-day Tuesday...to which I wholeheartedly agree.) I got dinged in one area on my evaluation this fall but I knew it was an area I've struggled with and I have busted my butt to improve it all year...and I did and will continue to do so. It was more because I knew that this thing was something that didn't need to be the way it was...had my admin been on my case about it, I probably would have viewed the whole thing differently. It was approached as a way for me to reflect on what I was doing and how. And I have made it a personal goal to do better there and I did. It wasn't punitive, it was a way for me to better what I'm doing for kids. That's how it should be always, everywhere but we know it isn't. (If it was, there would be no need for a session like this one.)