The Insanity of Our Teacher Evaluation Regime

As I’ve mentioned many times, most professionals wouldn’t tolerate the inanity of teacher evaluation regimes. Consider this from a Minnesota kindergarten teacher (boldface mine):

Let’s start with what it means to be a “good teacher.” As the article says: “The district uses three different tools to evaluate teachers: classroom observations, a student survey and student achievement data.” Let’s put that into the perspective of a Bethune kindergarten teacher.

•Classroom observations: We have four per year. The teacher receives points based on standardized criteria; the feedback is generally helpful. But these observations also involve the observer walking up to students and asking what they are doing. Even my 5-year-olds, who may have just started school, get asked this question. The student is supposed to regurgitate the “I can” statement that correlates to “Focused Instruction.” The usual response, though, is something along the lines of “math” or “Jaden took my crayon!”

If you were in my room, observing an observation, you would laugh. I promise.

•Student surveys: I administer a student survey once a year. My 5-year-olds have to circle their responses (even though they can’t read) to questions about their teacher and school. Have you been around a 5-year-old? They are adorable, spacey, loud and unfocused — and under no circumstances does this student survey make sense for them or to them.

•Student achievement data: Two to three times a year, our students are pulled out of our classrooms and tested by a stranger from the district. When she asks our kids to go into a separate room with her and gives them a test, most of them shut down. It’s intimidating to them. Some are asked to take this test in the middle of breakfast; others are tested right after recess. The inconsistency of when our children are tested creates a test that isn’t being measured consistently or accurately, in my opinion.

These are the “achievement data” that are referenced in the article. The scores are often low and rarely reflect the students’ actual achievements. My fellow teachers and I have plenty of conflicting and affirming evidence to support our students’ actual achievements, growth and knowledge. But this evidence is not considered when determining the effectiveness of a teacher.

These seem to be rather pressing issues:

At Bethune, many of our students are what most Americans would define as starving. At least a third are HHM (homeless/highly mobile), see violence in their homes or neighborhoods regularly and come to school with baggage many of us couldn’t imagine, let alone at age 5. Yet they are expected to meet the standards of kindergartners at upwardly mobile neighborhood schools like Burroughs and Hale. As far as the tests are concerned, a teacher is a teacher and a student is a student….

A student will throw a chair across the room, or scissors at other students, or kick and punch me. It takes time, love and energy to find out why they are doing this. Many are imitating behaviors they see at home. Sometimes they have bottled-up feelings about something they have experienced and don’t know how to handle their anger. So, I teach them. I love them. I’m consistently there for them. I report their situation to Hennepin County all too often.

I think I might have mentioned the problem of absenteeism once or twice:

Let’s talk about classroom stability. It is not a rarity when a student just doesn’t show up. Last year, I had a total of two days with perfect attendance. Many of our families do not have stable housing and have to move frequently, often out of state. Four new students have enrolled in my classroom within the last month. None has had any previous schooling (yes, you can still just start in October); none could write his or her name.

Yes, there are bad teachers. But the home environment is so critical to learning, yet ‘reformers’ choose to ignore that. Instead, we institute bizarre evaluation regimes that don’t get at these core problems at all.

Assuming future generations know any history, they will look back on us with contempt.

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1 Response to The Insanity of Our Teacher Evaluation Regime

  1. jrkrideau says:

    Are you sure that the US education administration has not been taken over by a sinister international cabal ™ out to distroy the USA?

    Or I suppose that it could jusst be a casse of “Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.” In which case, I’d start collecting doves and shee, a lot of them, really quickly.

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