Last week I was observed by my principal and a master educator. I haven't had my meeting with the master educator yet to discuss my evaluation (sorry -- no juicy numerical details), but I did meet with my principal to discuss my scores and I left that meeting even more convinced that some administrators in this school system just don't have what it takes.
The lesson I got observed on went OK, but not great. I had split the class up into two groups based on their performance on a mini-assessment, and was doing differentiated lessons based on those groupings. While there were no major problems, the class wasn't terribly well organized. Essentially, whenever I left one group to work with the other, the first group didn't really accomplish much. Nothing terrible happened, but I hadn't set up structures to ensure that the groups continued working even when I walked away. All this to say that I expected my evaluation to be OK, but not stellar.
Wrong. I received a score of 3.8 (out of a perfect 4), which puts me in the "highly effective" category. Now, if I'd actually earned that score, I'd be pleased. But I didn't. My lesson showed me to be effective, but not outstanding. So why did I get the score I got? Because my principal has decided that she likes me. Of course, this isn't really a problem for me (except that I'm not really getting any feedback for improvement, I suppose). But it is a problem for the people she's decided she doesn't like. Some teachers at my school are unhappy with their scores, and for some I don't really doubt that it's because they're not based in reality.
I firmly believe in accountability for teachers. Teachers should be held to high standards of excellence. Someone should be able to walk into your classroom at any time and see what you're doing, and you should be doing your job reasonably well. I firmly believe that teachers who aren't meeting an acceptable level of performance should be put on an improvement plan and, if that doesn't work, transitioned out of the classroom (read: fired). Kids deserve that much. But I'm also coming to realize that such a practice won't ever happen fairly until we have administrators who are willing and able to do that job. If teachers are the single biggest factor in improving student achievement (as I -- and Michelle Rhee -- think they are), then aren't administrators the single biggest factor in improving teacher effectiveness?
(P.S. I think some will read this post and say, "That's just what we've been saying forever! Rhee is terrible! That's why the union protects us from arbitrary firings!" Well, I still disagree with those statements. There are way too many teachers in this system who are grossly incompetent, and I applaud Michelle Rhee's fervent attempts to rid our system of them. I'm just saying we won't be able to do that until administrators are on board with doing their jobs well. That is all.)
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