Every teacher wants to be highly effective in classroom. Spending hours researching best practices, planning lessons and setting up their classrooms. After just a few formal observations, teachers are handed their “report card” at the end of the year from their administrator in the form of an evaluation. Teachers receive daily feedback about their teaching from students and parents but often receive little to none from their administrators until the final evaluation meeting at the end of the year. Educators can feel surprised by their evaluations if the results don’t match the feedback they received.
For evaluation systems to be accurate, they need to be administered with fidelity throughout our educational system. Using different tools and procedures creates a feeling of distrust in today’s schools, especially since teacher job placement is not based upon teaching evaluations. Deborah Ball and The Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness have attempted to address these issues; Sadly the Michigan Legislature failed to approve and fund their plan.
A recent addition to the teacher evaluation is student growth data from standardized tests thanks to the Race To The Top initiative by the federal government. This creates an entire new set of concerns about evaluations. Do all students grow the same? Is learning growth linear? NO, but these are the assumptions made when using student growth data in teacher evaluations. Many times teachers are evaluated in content that they don’t even teach. Using student growth for teacher evaluations focuses on linear academic growth, it does not take into account where students start and what is occurring in a student’s life. Students that are all ready ahead of grade level will have a harder time growing since the learning targets for the grade level have been mastered. This means teachers of advanced placement or gifted students will have the largest struggle showing growth. What we really need to remember is that learning is NOT linear.
Of course teachers desire learning to happen in their classroom: many struggle with how to measure it. Why? Because learning has so many variable that are beyond the teacher’s control.
Teachers deserve an evaluation that is equitable to ALL. Let’s work on making one!
Our current education system focuses on clock time to measure learning. The current buzz around teacher evaluations is that students should have a years worth of growth during a school year. These leaves two critical questions:
- Who defines the growth?
- Are all students going to grow equally in the same time frame?
Looking at my children, I struggle with this concept. They have all grown but in so many different ways and at very different rates. My three children have all been completely different when it comes to hitting “growth milestones”. My two boys Griffin (10) and Gavin (6) we late walkers and talkers. On the other hand Grace (6) was early. Then again my boys are way ahead on the height and weight milestones where Grace is “just” average. Having watched Griffin grow academically over 6 years of school, I have noticed he excels in Math, Science and Social Studies but struggles as a reader and writer.
Don’t we all have different strengths and weaknesses? Shouldn’t school honor this, allowing us to move faster in areas where we can, while helping us continue moving forward in areas of need?
Did you know October is “Connected Educator Month”? Of those of us educators that are connected via Twitter, Facebook, Google + etc, We can’t miss it. Every 5th tweet in my stream seems to be promoting a #CE14 twitter chat or a webinar about connecting.
But what about unconnected educators? Do they even know that CE Month is happening? What is the purpose of Connected Educator Month? Is it for all of us who are connected to share how we connect with each other? I hope not. That would be “preaching to the choir”. We know how to connect. We use tools that we like and find engaging. We all have well established and growing Professional Learning Networks.
Connected Educator Month should be about helping those educators who aren’t connected to see the value of connecting. Connected educators need to reach out of their comfort zones of technology connections and connect with those not in our Professional Learning Network. This means spending energy to connect in a DIFFERENT mode. We can’t promote Twitter, Facebook, or Google + on those networks, we will only reach those that are already there. Having a Connected Educator conversation on twitter draws in nobody new.
As I walk the hallways of my school, October has begun. The Principal has mentioned that it is National Bullying Prevention Month. High school conferences are on the horizon as well is progress report grades. Football and volleyball dominate the after school agenda, along with a fall dance, Homecoming at the high school and Halloween is in the air. No mentions of Connected Educator Month anywhere. .
How do we draw attention to the power of connections to the unconnected teacher? Many organizations have online magazines promoting CE Month. I even wrote an article for one last year. Few teachers have time to read these on a regular basis. We are too worried about reaching the students in front of us everyday. The power of connecting can really only be shared in small conversations. I recently has a conversation with two unconnected educators, they asked why and how I had time. I shared my story and experience. It helped them understand more. Will they connect? Maybe.
A better way that telling is showing! The Warren Education Association President has asked for help connecting on twitter. Since we have been friend for 3 years he has seen how I connect and he is trying something new. He has offered up his office conference room for me to show him and anyone else who wants to learn. Tonight during the #michED chat, We will be meeting up to connect. I will be showing a few people the how and answering questions.
Connected educators need to take the time to show others the power! Lets branch out! Have a Greet and Tweet. So that Connected Educator Month can be about adding more members to our connected community.
Day 30- @TeachThough 30 Day Reflective Teaching Challenge
What would you do (as a teacher) if you weren’t afraid?
If I weren’t afraid I would start my own school. I feel the current path that public education is heading down is full of the best intentions but politics and funding seem to rule where the intentions end up. I want to build a school where the world is the classroom. Teachers are the guides. Learning is fun and engaging. Where students don’t have to ask why we are studying a topic because they picked it. Where teachers will show the relevance of topics. Student spend their days motivating teachers and never wanting to leave until sapped of energy instead of the other way around.
Desire to learn is a natural thing. Some how our current society/school model has drained this natural instinct. New schools need to be created without the old school norms. Free from being a political pawn each election season. Where learning is the focus, not day care and seat time. Where a culture of learning is cultivated with the growth mindset. Students will work at their own pace growing until skills are mastered.
This seems Utopian and full of “buzz words”. It does exist. We have to strive for it everyday. If I weren’t afraid I would stop trying to change my current school and go build a school every child, teacher and community deserves.
#MSchat and AMLE are partnering up to bring another splendid Flipped Twitter event to the Twitter-verse, and I would love to have you all to join the conversation. Much appreciation to Dru Tomlin from AMLE for providing great material for us to chat about and moderating the chat!
Here are the details:
- What is it? Twitter Event at #mschat about Motivating Students in the Middle Level!
- What else? Our conversation will be motivated by the “Motivating Students with Teachable Moments” article in the August edition of AMLE Magazine: http://www.amle.org/Portals/0/pdf/amle_magazine/fi/AMLEMag_Aug2014.pdf. In fact, as you can see, the entire AMLE magazine is available for AMLE Associate (FREE!) members.
- When? Thursday, August 14th from 8-9pmET
- Where? #mschat