Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hypocrisy at the Top - Let's start with accountability

Though there are many unresolved issues pertaining to the teacher's strike in Chicago, it seems the one Rahm wants to run with is the Teacher Evaluation.  Do I think teachers should be evaluated?  Definitely!  Do I think they should be held accountable?  Absolutely! Do I think that 50% of it should be based on one standardized test? NO! Now on the news you won't hear the 50% number, they are now saying about 28%.  During the first week of school where teachers had to go through professional development about this very tenuous evaluation plan, the little pie charts that were given to us showed that the end game was having 50% of a teacher's evaluation based upon the standardized test. 

What about those teachers whose subject matter is not tested on standardized tests?  Take physical education, for example.  At the grade school level there is little to no reading that takes place during gym class.  After all, the students only get physical education one day a week and they need to move around.  So part of the PE teacher's evaluation will be based on the overall score of the Literacy portion of the test.  Does this make sense? The details of this Evaluation system are not being explained clearly to the public and for good reason...

I started out by saying that I do believe teachers should be evaluated on their performance and be held accountable.  Here are a few suggestions on how that could be done in a way that focuses on the teacher's actual performance.

  • Give the teachers a test every year or two over the content area in which they teach.  If they are not proficient, then there is definitely a performance problem.  If there is a problem, remediation is in order; if they are proficient, move on to the next step.  
  • Teachers already undergo formal observations and some argue that because teachers are aware of the upcoming observations that they can "put on a show" for that one period.  So...keep those formal observations, but then move on to the next step.
  • How about adding informal observations to the list?  After a few unannounced visits, the administration should be able to see if that teacher is actually doing her job all the time, and how well she is getting through to the students.  Is the classroom under control, are the students actively taking part, etc.  If there is a problem, remediation is in order; if the teacher is proficient...move on.

Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head.  I know state law now dictates a small amount of the evaluation must be based on standardized test scores, but a much smaller percentage than what the Board wants.  What if they gave the test at the beginning of the year and than gave the same test at the end?  Is that a better way to measure how much was learned within a year than the system we now have?

I know there are some bad teachers out there, but they are not the majority.  If a teacher is really found to be unsatisfactory  and not proficient in their area and remediation does not change this, then proper steps need to be set forth for dismissal. 

I know I titled this post Hypocrisy at the Top and this is why.  

A displaced teacher (by CPS's standards) is a  teacher who lost their position by no fault of their own.  Meaning their Evaluation ratings were Excellent or Superior (these are CPS terms).  Possible reasons for the displacement might be lower enrollment or budget cuts. Since these teachers were "graded" as being very good, then why doesn't CPS and Rahm want them to be rehired first before going outside of CPS and recruiting new teachers?  They were not fired for being unsatisfactory or negligent or anything like that...using the Board's own term they were displaced.  

Mahalia Hines, a principal,  was quoted in the news yesterday stating, "You can't be held accountable if you can't select the people you work with.  It is just way too difficult." So principals believe they should not be held accountable if they cannot "select" the teachers they have in their schools, but teachers ARE to be held accountable for the students in front of them who they cannot select based on a standardized test over which they have no control...even when teachers do not even teach those subjects.

Utter hypocrisy!

Original quote can be found here: