Are Teacher Evaluations Measuring Up?

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!

Christmas Wish for Education

All I want for Christmas is that education be valued in our society! Sure most people will say they value education when asked, but what does that look like? Scan our media and see where educators our held up in high esteem? Can you find many places?
When news outlets talk to “educational” experts they rarely if ever talk to TEACHERS, the ones in education. News likes to talk to the think tank experts who have spent little time if any in a classroom. Funny isn’t it? When they want medical opinions they talk to doctors, legal opinions they talk to lawyers, cooking advice they even talk to master chefs. BUT when it comes to talking about education, no lets talk to people who have strong opinions but haven’t spent time in a classroom! When it comes to depicting teachers in TV and Film are they held in high regard like: Doctors, Lawyers, Police or Fire personal? NO the educators come off as stereotypical characters who could not “do” so they had to teach. It is hard to find a teacher represented as a positive character anywhere. Schools are a reflection of our society we need to hold them up and show that they are valuable to us.
What is your Christmas wish for Education?

Let’s Take Learning Off The Clock!

clock-clip-art-dcrakazc9

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:

  1. Who defines the growth?
  2. 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?

Connecting with the already connected? Let’s branch out!!

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.

Reflective Teaching Day #30 – IF I weren’t afraid

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 Twitter event 8-14-14 8 pm ET

#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

Hold it right there David C. Banks!

This morning a friend sends me a link to David C. Bank’s post in the Daily Beast entitled:”Why Middle Schools Should Be Abolished“. I was shocked an educator would write such a thing about any school level, let alone middle school which I hold dear to my heart. As I read the post, David does point out some challenges/needs for educators in the middle level but is focused on throwing out middle schools and combining them with High schools or elementary schools. He missed the opportunity to focus on the students needs and write about the need focus in the middle school level!

Here are a quote from the article really stuck out:

“One challenge is the ill-prepared teacher” – This is very true. Most states don’t have middle school certification programs. Teachers with elementary and high school certifications can all teach in middle school programs. States need to create a third level of certification so teachers are trained to teach this level. This does not mean the students should be lumped in the higher or lower level. I received a master degree in Middle Level Education Programming. All teachers in the middle level need to read “This We Believe” the position paper by the Association for Middle Level Education.

 

Later in the article David said “A teacher’s ability to relate to his or her students is not icing on the cake of serious academics—I believe it is the whole cake.” I totally agree, middle school is about relationships. (Well all school should be) Where is this not happening? I want to go help these schools become better rather than cut them out of the educational process.

I feel David is pointing out a larger problem that exists in our country today. Many Middle Schools are Middle School by name only. The function more like Junior High Schools. YES, there is a difference. If you read This We Believe, it is clearly spelled out. Middle Schools focus on team teaching. Making sure ALL students educational needs are met. Spending time with curriculum in all areas of learning: Physical, Emotional, Intellectual and Social. Dues to educational budget cuts around the country Middle School programs have been cut drastically.

Our society tends to focus on early intervention and college readiness. School districts feel judged by these programs so have spend the few dollars they have beefing up these programs. In my school district for example we have employed 11 staff members to help out with reading recovery and early reading intervention programs. These staff help the K-3 programs be successful. Our high school also has hired extra staff to help counsel students and prepare them for college success. This leaves funding short to middle level programming which David points out needs improvements.

I feel it is malpractice to propose abolishing an entire level based solely on achievement gaps and personal experience. David have you actually taught in a middle school? Have you read This We Believe? Please do if you haven’t. Don’t throw out the middle level for the reasons you state. It is an important time for our students. Insist that staff is trained properly. Middle Schools that are TRUE middle schools are Highly successful. Just look at the schools to watch list here in Michigan to see some great middle schools at work.

David I charge you to reexamine you post and see the need to make sure all middle schools are TRUE MIDDLE SCHOOLS. We shouldn’t abolish anything.  Hopefully other Middle School bloggers will also take their time to respond to your post and change your mind!