Teacher evaluations have hit center stage over the past year or so. Quite simply put, the process has changed, some for the better, some seemingly for the worse, and much of which will remain to be seen.
Let’s start with the worse. SGP’s:
Student Growth Percentile’s. on the surface it sounds reasonable if not horrifically confusing. But a quick peek into the information behind the fancy charts and initials shows a major problem, and other potential ones down the road. Here us my biggest problem with using the system right now: New Jersey will be switching from the NJASK to the PARCC test following this year. It is fairly clear that the NJASK does not adequately reflect tge Common Core, which is what NJ has endorsed. Yet we are going to start using a Teacher Evaluation system where we put peoples’ livelihoods at stake with the first year’s data coming from a test that is considered obsolete? Furthermore, student performance is expected to drop witg the first run through the PARCC test because of the significant differences in the tests. Now the conspiracy tgeorists may say we are being set up for a major failure. I won’t go that far, but lets be honest it makes NO sense not to wait until next year to incorporate SGPs and in doing so, it will give the state a chance to actually clarify the process and expectations. I am not saying a year will make the system great, or even good, but at least it can be clarified and make some sense.
Next up: the to be determined SGO
Student Growth Objective is a fancy term that basically says we want you to envision where your students will be and measure the progress toward that point. Read that again. That is what good teachers already do in their class. They identify where students are now, teach accordingly based on where they need to get them, monitor and adjust. There are lots of concerns over how this is going to be completed, what impact it will have on evaluation, and how we will “deal” with this added pressure. The truth is, all we are adding is the documentation of our success. We have little to fear when it comes to this so long as we treat this as just keeping track of how our students progress toward what we envision for them. We can take some good from this, or we can drag our heels and turn this relatively minor added inconvenient paperwork into an unnecessary battle. The truth is that we can use these SGOs to benefit us in two ways. First, it will force us to better document and focus on the vision we have for our students. Second, and more importantly for many of us, it will reinforce and validate our success. Many of us see our students end up where we expected them to be, but providing documentation will simply reinforce the claims that most teachers do in fact perform at a high level.
Finally, the new Evaluation system:
This is where I feel like the school system will really benefit. Up until this point, teacher evaluations were inconsistent at best. Teachers and administrators have been left with little to go upon for evaluations other than the fancy of their superiors. While some schools have established procedures, the system was not consistent and could change from school to school, administrator to administrator, and for teacher to teacher. Although there are several different models, most of the popular models (Danielson, Marzano, McRel) are very similar. Although I prefer using Danielson, the differences are minor. Each has their own quirks, these models provide us with some important advantages when it comes to evaluation. First, teachers will know what is expected of them. These models are not that hard to understand and many of the key aspects are things that teachers do to a certain degree. Also, they provide a focus guidance on what each of us can do better. Every good teacher knows they have many areas of improvement as well as things they do well. Laying that out for a teacher, although in some cases may be frightening, is a great way to aide in their improvement. Finally, the newer evaluations provide for teachers a chance to defend themselves. Using the rubrics from any of these systems, a teacher can provide evidence to defend themselves against ratings that they feel are incorrect or unjustly earned. This portion of the evaluation system will ultimately prove helpful for all teachers and administrators.
As teachers, and as administrators we have two responsibilities. First, we must see both sides of the coin. Even though man of the changes we are seeing are set forth by people that we may not agree with on many policies, there are always positives to take from the viewpoints of another. We cannot just say no, drag our feet and pretend it will go away. These changes are newly included as part of our profession and we need to be able to take whatever positives we can find in them. Second, we need to take these issues on in a proactive way. Creating alternatives that embrace the positives while addressing the negatives will give all of us a better, more functional improvements in our profession.