Accountability. You will always view it as a good and necessary thing. That is until you are the one being held accountable. This past year, the state of Indiana has raised the bar on teacher evaluations. Our school adopted the RISE model in it’s entirety. While our leadership team is already planning on alterations for this system in the upcoming year, it has certainly served a great purpose.
I wanted to clarify some things about teacher evaluations from the perspective of an administrator who has had the opportunity to sit in and observe numerous classrooms and has had several great (and even tough) conversations with staff. Parents and community members, regardless of what school they call home, need to understand four things about teacher evaluations.
1. The goal isn’t to fire teachers. I personally feel that the news media has not done justice to schools in portraying the true purpose of a good evaluation system. Witch hunts sell and bring viewers. To say we’re going after the “bad” teachers sounds great in theory. But all that message did was send the great educators scrambling out of fear. The goal isn’t to fire teachers. It’s to strengthen them. We want all teachers, regardless of how good they are, to sharpen that sword.
2. The good teachers are already doing everything RISE requires. I’m finding this out every single day. If anything, it is asking them to do MUCH more documenting of what it is that they are already doing. For many, this has proven burdensome and a distraction. Evaluators can try to minimize this as much as possible, but it is impossible to relieve them from this load completely.
3. Unless something changes with the state legislature, most schools will be unable to afford genuine merit pay for their teachers. The former administration at the Department of Education tried to spin the new evaluation measures as a way to “reward” the most effective teachers in each district. The problem is the lack of funding for education. Many schools, even the top-rated ones, have had to cut positions, salaries, and benefits just to stay afloat. Money for merit pay is not available unless the state kicks in. The IDOE’s answer was to offer schools a competitive grant called the “Excellence In Performance Grant”. Schools were invited to apply. However only a select few were chosen. Our Elementary and High Schools were each rated as “A” schools, yet were not awarded the grant. I hope that the state comes up with a better solution in the future. We would love to reward excellent teaching!
4. Teachers are shining brighter than ever before. I have seen it with my own eyes. They are getting to work early and staying late. They are making phone calls, collaborating on lesson plans, attending professional development opportunities, and involving parents more than ever before. They want to succeed, and so they are heavily invested emotionally. During celebrations, the smiles are bigger. During trying days, the tears are heavier. And most encouraging of all, their camaraderie is more genuine…not only with those in their school, but across school and district lines.
What are your thoughts and questions regarding teacher evaluations? I’d love to hear them. Please post something in my comment section and feel free to share this post with others. Let’s get the discussion started!