Monday, February 20, 2012

Evaluating Teachers

Years ago, when I was a new teacher, my principal was supposed to evaluate me.  He was supposed to come into my classes a minimum of 20 minutes and two separate times.  What actually happened is that he stuck his head in the door to my room once.  From this he wrote up my evaluation.  It was a run of the mill evaluation, except for two things that I remember very clearly.  He wrote that I had demonstrated no interest in furthering my teaching credentials.  Since, at the time, I was in the process of getting my Master's degree in Elementary Education at the local, and highly regarded, university, I thought that this was a rather bizarre comment and I politely told him that it wasn't accurate.  He refused to change that statement.  He wrote also that I never read the journals about teaching that were in the staff room.  Since I subscribed to several education journals at home, I didn't feel the need to read them at school.  He also refused to change this statement on his written evaluation. 

Fast forward to years later.  I was again up for evaluation.  Again, the criteria were that I was to be evaluated twice in the year for a minimum of 20 minutes.  This time, I was supposed to turn in detailed lesson plans ahead of time, discuss them with the principal, then actually teach the lesson, with a detailed follow up with the principal.  Only he forgot to tell me when any of this was to take place.  Finally, with the evaluation due, he told me one day that he needed to watch me teach a lesson THAT DAY.  Since there was no time to do the pre-lesson consultation, I invited him to come watch me teach a class right then.  Most of my classes were small groups, as I taught gifted, pull-out classes, but I had two classes with the entire grade level, teaching general social studies.  I invited him to watch one of these.  I taught what was one of the best lessons I have ever taught.  Things just seemed to come together for that lesson.  His only comment:  I forgot to summarize "what we have learned" at the end.  The evaluation was relatively non-committal, with scores in the middle of the range for most things.  When asked why the scores were that low, he said that he wanted there to be room for improvement.  There was no standard of comparison, nothing to say that that was an awesome lesson.

I have been evaluated in other teaching jobs, but, I must admit, I don't remember those evaluations.  Either the results were so average that I promptly forgot them, or they never took place at all and the principals just wrote an evaluation, based on their perceptions of how my classes were going. 

Thus, my experiences with teacher evaluations by principals have not been very positive.  What should have been a collaborative experience between the teacher and the principal, has not been one, in my experience.

But is the method of using test results any better?  What if Congress were judged on the number of bills they have passed?

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