Back in the late 90’s when I set out to write a book on teacher evaluation and growth I was writing out of some frustration with the existing system, which seemed more concerned with assigning a ranking or rating than actually helping the teacher or students to grow. What was it, I wondered, that caused good teachers to get better – what made them engage in continued learning that improved their teaching? What are the elements of effective teaching? What did we know about how adults learned? Could leaders help teachers to grow in meaningful and credible ways? Would all this activity result in increased student learning?
As I have followed the discussion around teacher evaluation over the years, it seemed like there was little progress being made. Various merit pay systems have been implemented, but the truth is that good teachers did not really get into teaching for the pay. Recently there has been a lot of talk about tying teacher evaluation to student test scores. Here is an article that is a good summary of what is happening in this regard.
Will this make a difference? What part of a teacher’s evaluation should be determined by student test scores? Is the test accurate in determining a year’s growth? Will students be motivated to do their best on the test? In the end, will student test scores motivate teachers? Can everything worthwhile that a teacher is doing be measured by student test results?
In a new book called Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation: How to Work Smart, Build Collaboration, and Close the Achievement Gap, Kim Marshall, long-time principal and professional leadership development consultant, provides a very helpful way forward. His appraisal that principals often fall into an HPSPS (Hyperactive Superficial Principal Syndrome) mode much of the time and into the Saints, Sinners, and Cynics categories when evaluation crunch time hits resonated with what I know to be true. Saints spend great amounts of time trying to do it all right – Marshall estimates that in a school of 35 teachers, a principal could spend as much as 300 hours (50 observations, 6 hours each with pre and post conferences included) on teacher evaluation alone. Cynics don’t believe that the evaluation will matter anyway and so they sit down and crank them out as quickly as possible to meet requirements. Sinners don’t evaluate teachers at all – which happens more frequently than is ever admitted, but verified by the number of teachers who report having never been evaluated.
Based on his long experience as a practitioner (32 years), Marshall suggests that principals adopt a four-pronged approach to the task of improving teaching and learning:
2) Team curriculum unit planning
3) Team interim assessment work
4) End of year rubric evaluations
I recommend this to you as a very helpful and practical book. It is filled with examples, rubrics, forms, and a well reasoned and balanced approach to a complex and critical topic.