Rating Teachers? Is it really necessary?
In my last Update I wrote about the possibility of eliminating the requirement to use student growth scores for teacher and principal evaluation. In this post I am proposing another thought-provoking idea -- do we really need to rate teachers?
What is the purpose in rating teachers? Some would say it is to sort and rank. Some would say it is to initiate change in performance. Others would say it is for continued employment purposes and accountability. We could probably state as many reasons as there are individuals who do the evaluating.
In my opinion there are two main reasons to evaluate both teachers and principals. The first is to offer a constructive and supportive environment for the individuals to improve their performance. The second is to determine if any educator is doing harm to students. I use the term "harm" in the context of student growth/achievement, not in the context of actually physically harming the student.
Rating and ranking teachers or administrators does not lead to a constructive and supportive environment. In fact, it probably does the opposite. If leaders could work with evaluatees in a framework that encourages self-assessment and self-reflection, we might actually change behavior, I believe more positive change would occur with supportive and constructive comments than it does in rating teachers. As soon as evaluators insert the summative score the supportive and constructive environment tends to disappear.
There is a process in Illinois to evaluate non-tenured teachers that includes up to four years of gathering evidence and either mentoring/coaching or telling/directing the non-tenured teacher to improve. Following placement on tenure very few teachers are ever dismissed for low teacher rating scores. Thus, working with teachers in a supportive and constructive manner, rather than rating-and-ranking, is much more likely to result in improved teacher performance.
Tip of the Week
A veteran superintendent recently asked me if I knew of a good strategic planning process that a superintendent could use to change the direction of the school district. When I asked why the superintendent needed this process, I discovered that the community and school board perception of the district's strengths had changed. I responded with the suggestion that before any strategic planning can begin the leader needs to conduct an exhaustive survey of the communities' and board's perceptions. I suggested that this be done by the superintendent, by making appointments and talking to community members from every segment of the community. This would be a similar process that a new superintendent would undergo before making any substantial recommendations for change in the new school district. As leaders we need to remember that perception is reality in the eyes of the beholder. We need to determine what those perceptions are before we can act.