Friday, November 21, 2008

Harry Potter and the Evaluation

My principal officially observed me on Wednesday, and I had my debrief with her today. For those of you who don't know how evaluations work in the idiocracy that is DCPS, let me give you the lowdown.

The teacher picks the day and time that the principal comes. This means that teachers who might normally, for example, hand out a worksheet and fall asleep all of a sudden have spectacular lessons. Also, in secondary schools, the teacher gets to pick the period -- and of course most teachers pick the best one. So essentially teachers get to make themselves look as good as possible.

In addition, since my principal NEVER is out of her office going into classrooms, the kids are flabbergasted to see her and are terrified. So they behave perfectly.

Essentially, the principal has NO idea whether or not good teaching is going on in a classroom based on her observation. In the two years I have worked in my school, my principal has been in my room exactly twice -- both times to observe me in a situation that was totally inorganic. But I digress...

I went in to discuss the observation with my principal, and she basically said she thought everything was perfect. I received "Exceeds Expectations" ratings in every category, and she said that she had no suggestions for improvement. I can't disagree with her rating -- my lesson was very good and my kids were extremely well behaved. But as a teacher, I know I am not outstanding. I'm solidly good, but definitely not great. I'm relatively new at this, and there are lots of days where I really struggle. I'm happy to have the excellent ratings, but this type of observation and discussion doesn't help student achievement and it doesn't help improve teacher quality.

A much more valuable process would be one where the principal pops in for mini-observations more frequently. The teachers might not know she was coming, and the kids would get used to her presence. Then, she'd be able to see a "regular" day instead of a dog-and-pony show.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on your evaluation. Though I think what you expected was real, constructive feedback that you could use to do your job better. On the elementary school level, principals tend to do more unstructured (surprise) drop in type observations. If you're in a high school, principals are just too busy doingpaperwork, putting out fires, dealing with parents and discipline problems to be real instructional leaders. Again, this is good. I'd always lie to my students and say the principal was coming in to see if you all were behaving, learning and doing your work. But older kids might not bi=uy that lie.

y_kiwi said...

Absolutely on the money. Imagine a business being run along the same lines.

Imagine a place where the teacher and students are used to not only the Principal but also other teachers (peers) and even folk from other schools dropping by.

Less experienced teachers can observe great teachers, great teachers can observe less experienced once. Follw every drop by with a 5 minute feedback and you are on the path to true performance improvement. Just like industry.