Saturday, April 13, 2013

We Don't Need a New Way to Evaluate Teachers

On Thursday, my superintendent announced that he is leaving either through retirement or accepting a new position. In meeting with him to discuss the transition to new leadership, we discussed various issues, the new evaluation system being prominent. Like me, he does not believe that another unfunded mandate from the legislature, unnecessarily bureaucratized by OSPI , and endorsed by WEA is either welcome or needed. Like me, he is not a Kool-aid drinker, not one enamored by ed reform’s latest bauble. Unlike most of his superintendent colleagues and those who are piloting the new evaluation program, he believes we should seek the barest, most minimal implementation--that which, in his phrasing, will keep the black helicopters from visiting Oak Harbor.

Since June of last year when the legislature passed Senate Bill 5895, I have spent the majority of my focused time as a local leader on implementing the new evaluation system in Oak Harbor. I have spent dozens and dozens and dozens of hours

  • Researching and learning about the legislation
  • Familiarizing myself with OSPI’s T-PEP website
  • Preparing and leading a presentation to my school board in June
  • Preparing and leading a presentation with my HR director to every school in the fall
  • Attending six full days of the T-PEP RIG process in Anacortes
  • Attending a half-day presentation by leaders of the Anacortes pilot program—leaders who are marinated in Kool-aid
  • Attending a full day training by WEA in Bellingham
  • Preparing and leading a follow-up presentation to my school board this month
  • About to attend four full days to practice evaluating using the 5-Dimensions instructional framework
  • Meeting eight times with my head bargainer and the HR director and then spending time after each meeting to produce rough drafts to write contractual language for the Association’s and district’s negotiations teams in time for the start of bargaining on April 11
  • Scheduling, preparing and then leading follow-up presentations to every school this May
  • Supporting my negotiations team as they bargain evaluation language

As my departing superintendent and I lamented, there is absolutely nothing in the new system that could not have been accomplished in the old, admitted-clunky and imprecise system. Almost all teachers are satisfactory. Those who are not can be made to improve by the old system. Old procedures contained plans of improvement that worked. Those who do not improve usually see the handwriting on the wall and the Association helps them leave the profession or seek employment elsewhere in a dignified manner.

I happened to be watching CNN’s Your Money this morning, and saw a series of charts showing that American workers have increased productivity and created more wealth the past several decades but have found their wages stagnated. A billionaire Wall Street investor then commented that the problem with this picture is the failed American public education system.

Really? If the products of our schools are so damaged by incompetent teachers than why has productivity and wealth risen?

We don’t need a new teacher evaluation system. It is a colossal waste of time, effort and money, and has diverted energies away from meeting the needs of students. WEA’s leadership should be ashamed to be part of this debacle.

One of my teacher colleagues sent me the following link to a fantastic but deeply sad letter of resignation from a teacher in New York who resigned because he couldn’t take the effects of ed reform any longer: “I am not leaving my profession, in truth, it has left me. It no longer exists.”

We can do better. WEA must do better.

Teacher's Resignation Letter

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