Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Monday, February 22, 2010

Evaluating Teachers

Unions are a double edged sword. One edge is very sharp and the other one is very dull. With the sharp edge the cut through the red tape, the wrangling for rights and justice, and the abuse when it happens. With that dull blade they protect teachers who shouldn't be teachers. This has always been my gripe wit my union. It doesn't have a protocol to help us cut the weak, bad, incompetent teacher fro the faculty. It is our one major blemish, we can't police ourselves. I don't know of any program in a Union that provides incompetent teachers ways to find other jobs. We all know teachers in our schools who shouldn't be there. Sometimes our inaction causes harm to those scholars we are trying to help. When we see a teacher walked out of a school in cuffs, many of us aren't surprised and yet we have done nothing to prevent the crime that causes this public indignity to us. We don't have a program, a way to help our union separate the wheat from the chaff. Now that governors and school boards are using test scores to discharge teachers, good teachers may be victims and now we are in trouble because these tests will not care nor will the governors. Perhaps it is time our unions devise a protocol to help us protect ourselves from our incompetent colleagues.

We are all aware of teachers in our school who would do better at another profession. We don't need articles in newspapers to inform us of this. When I read these statistics from Denver, I wasn't stunned. Should I be?
• 62 percent of teachers say the evaluation process fails to provide an accurate assessment of performance.
• 60 percent of DPS teachers were told there is no area in which they must improve.
• 70 percent of administrators and 30 percent of teachers said there were tenured "teachers in my school who should be dismissed for poor performance."
• 32 "unsatisfactory" ratings were given out of 2,387 total non-probationary evaluations over a three-year period.

We cannot leave teacher evaluation just to the administration. Teachers and students and parents should also be involved. Removing a poor teacher from the classroom is not easy and usually takes something pretty heinous. The amount of time and money needed to defend an unsatisfactory is not always possible so these teachers stay in the classroom. Leaving these teachers in the classroom hurts us all.

We see incompetency rewarded everyday in our schools. The incompetent teachers are rarely chosen to do things, which means the competent teachers do more than their share. This is why the unions should be helping us. How exactly do the unions help the competent teachers? During my time in the public schools, my union reps have spent most of their time helping the incompetent teachers deflect all the attention they get from the administration. In more cases than not, I agree that the teacher in question would be better served in another profession. Too many resources are spent trying to do what in other professions is easier and more efficiently done. Administration spends lots more time observing and keeping a paper trail of the incompetent teacher for future reference. In the end the time spent by administration is for naught and the union reps time is eaten up. Rarely do the competent teachers get the attention they need. When teachers are under fire as they are now, it is time the unions figure out how they will be responsible and clean their own house. We need to clean up our house, get our respect back, and not leave our future to the tests and other tools to evaluate us. We need to be proactive, not reactive and do more to help incompetent teachers become competent or help them into another profession.

An example of how we might help each other would be through better and more collaboration in schools. We don't work with our colleagues enough and I blame the union for this. Having two teachers in one classroom isn't acceptable to the union. I remember many years ago suggesting that a US History teacher and I teach the same class in the computer lab. The union nixed it. I was stunned and never did understand the explanation. We know collaboration would make our schools better. We know everyone in the real world collaborates except teachers. We teach in isolation in rooms with doors closed. There was a time when new teachers were buddied up with a master teacher and mentored for those early years and monitored over the ensuing years to tenure. Those days are gone because of budgets and other misguided rules. We need to get back to teamwork in the classroom. Certainly one idea I have posited about altering schools would be to have the scholars stay in a room at their work station during the day and have the teachers move from room to room during the day assigning, monitoring and assessing the work of the scholars. It would also include lots technology. This would be more real world, more like business, and be very public and collaborative. We know how we teach is not working anymore and we need to make some changes.

Master teachers and administration are sharing the duties of five teacher observations of each teacher each year in DC schools. This has promise.

One of my favorite quotes,
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
Buckminster Fuller

speaks volumes and guides me in my practice every day in CyberEnglish.

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