Saturday, November 8, 2014


Have you been paying attention to what is going on with Teacher evaluations? I can’t say I blame you for not drilling down in on the farcical minutia that is TLE (Teacher Leader Effectiveness).  So a teacher’s formal evaluation, the characterization of the quality of their teaching, is being calculated like their very own personal A-F grade.  Does anyone (only credible people can answer) think a school’s A-F grade is an accurate portrayal of the overall quality of a school? Hell no.  A-F only measures the quality of the student’s test performance in a school, or as I like to point out, the quality of the students in the school.  TLE can’t even boast that claim.  Here is how TLE is calculated: Observation + OAM + VAM or SLO or SOO = Evaluation.  Ugh? Let me break it down:  A teacher’s observation is combined with a teacher determined metric, OAM (of which teachers get to pick their rating scale), plus either a complex statistical formula called Value Added Measure (VAM) or an overcomplicated Student Learning Outcome/Student Objective Outcome (SLO/SOO) (where teachers decide if the student has shown appropriate growth).  Still confused? Join the club.  The far right ideologues and I have found something to agree on: the government screwed this all to hell.  TLE in its current form is just a POS!

The real problem with the quantitative aspect of TLE is not the use of data to improve instruction.  I love the aspect of teachers selecting a Student Learning Outcome and collecting the information to drive changes in instruction or to reinforce great teaching. We should use the data as a professional development mechanism, but not for evaluations.  Teachers, by nature, won’t trust the system when it could ultimately lead them to being branded as a poor teacher and become a tool for their termination of employment.  And don’t start with the song and dance BS about evaluations should be about improving teacher quality and not about hiring and firing….. until great teachers get evaluated the same number of times poor teachers are evaluated, every teacher is going to believe employment decisions hinder on good evaluations.

The real problem with the quantitative aspect of TLE is it is simply an unfair and biased system.  If you teach 4th grade through 8th grade reading or math or Algebra I/II or English 3 you are playing by a different set of quantitative rules than everyone else.  These teachers get a VAM score based on so complex of a mathematical formula, the Oklahoma SDE spent $2 million dollars on the formula’s creation.  All other teachers, however, get to sit in a room and decide the specifics: 1. Which group of students do I want to measure? 2.  What content/standard(s) do I want to measure? 3. What assessment I use to get the data? 4). What student growth constitutes success?  How is this even close to equal or fair for our teachers?  The 5th grade reading teacher must use the 5th reading test and a computer determines student success with test growth scores teachers can’t control, but the 5th science teacher gets to use a teacher created pre/post test and gets to determine successful growth outcomes?

Quantitative data used as part of the evaluation will not elicit the outcome everyone wants: improved teacher quality. Isn’t the whole point of teacher evaluation to improve professional practice? Using quantitative data is a theoretical boon that is a practical boondoggle.  I argue using quantitative data in the formal evaluation inhibits the improvement process.  Do we really expect teachers to challenge themselves with rigorous lessons and robust student growth targets if the results end in an “ineffective rating”?  Do we really expect teachers to attempt different teaching modalities and improve their pedagogy when their livelihood is on the line?  However, if we took the quantitative evaluation piece off the table and allowed teachers to utilize the SLO/SOO process to improve best practices, then teachers could benefit from this otherwise complete waste of time.

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