How Teacher Evaluations Work…or Don’t.

SONY DSCWith four weeks left in the school year, I am constantly getting e-mails from administration that remind us, the staff, that final walk-throughs will be done in the next couple of weeks and, after grades are posted, our final evaluations will be ready for us to view. We receive reminders to enter in our “evidence” that we have been working toward the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year.

Politicians–who have never been in the classroom–have decided the way to better our public school system is to fix those lazy ass teachers and make them more accountable. They decided to tie pay to a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom.

How do you judge a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom?

I asked my students once how they know if a teacher is ‘effective.’  And of course they said, “Well you know…if they get the job done. If they know their stuff, are happy to be here, and the kids can learn from them.”

But how do you measure that? I mean, if you’re tying a person’s PAY to this or her “effectiveness” you must have a quantitative way to measure that. To show it’s happening…or not happening.

I am not sure about other districts, but my “effectiveness” is judged three ways:

  1. Administration “walk-throughs” which can last most of the hour or just 10 minutes.
  2. Students’ scores on the Scholastic Reading Test (SRI) (which are taken three times a year and, of course, should be showing growth on).
  3. Students’ grades.

“Walk-throughs” are there to judge me on whether or not I am following our school’s Action Plan (ours happens to be around literacy).

The SRI tests are three times a year and determine the student’s “reading level”. My evaluation hinges on my students always showing improvement.

Students’ grades seem to be the most unfair of all the ways of deciding my effectiveness.  In fact, I get extremely high scores on the walk-throughs (which are unannounced), but there are scads of students who are failing simply because they don’t turn in work, don’t show up, or don’t study for tests.

If I were to show you my grade book (just the final grades, not the actual assignments) and you knew nothing about me, you would seriously wonder why so many of my  younger students are failing.

If you read just my grades, it appears I am effective at teaching 10-12th graders Spanish, but I am terrible at teaching 8-9th graders the SAME Spanish class, and that I have no business as an English teacher.

If you had access to looking at the scores on all of the students’ assignments, you would see many blanks/zeros where there should be a grade. Because students do not turn assignments in. Or come in for help during my posted office hours. Or make up missed work/assessments.

We are told to document everything. I send weekly e-mails to parents. I call parents on my own time since I share a classroom during my planning period and do not have privacy to make phone calls. Our gradebook is online where parents can check.

And yet…

It is my effectiveness that will be judged based on these grades.

I once had a student say, “well that is not fair. I am failing this class because I don’t do anything, not because YOU don’t do anything, Mrs. Sluiter.”

Exactly.

I have seen a SomeEcard floating around that was basically teachers telling politicians we would also be adjusting their pay on their effectiveness…and one of the ways we would measure it was the economy.

What if this were true? Why is it unheard of to pay our politicians based on whether or not their goals get “effectively” worked toward (with evidence to prove it)? Why don’t we give “merit” pay to politicians who figure our solutions to some of our biggest problems and better our economy or other policies?

Why don’t WE hold THEM accountable?

After all, that is what they say they are doing with teachers: holding us accountable.

It’s Teacher Appreciation week.  Let a teacher know the difference he/she made in your life.  Let teachers know they are indeed “effective.”