Frequent conversation as teacher evaluation

The National Journal launched a discussion of teacher evaluation today.  Here’s my take.
We need to improve observation and value-added data to dramatically improve teacher evaluation.  The best observation system I’ve seen is KC KS where teaching is a public act and where teachers receive frequent feedback on a well developed instructional framework–it’s real time, broad based, and useful.
Value-added measures should incorporate periodic as well as summative assessment–it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone at the end of the year when a third grade classroom fails to make a year of progress in reading.  I’m hoping that the $350 million the feds plan to spend on assessment around the Common Core results in a new generation of adaptive online assessment that with better data systems give us much better real time data about student progress.  Frequent conversations about a body of evidence should replace ‘gotcha’ use of end of year standardized tests.
As Rozman points out, this gets a bit more complicated at the secondary level especially outside core subjects but the basic frame of frequent conversations about data and observation feedback should become a regular part of teacher evaluation.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

1 Comment

john thompson

I couldn't agree with you more. But the frequent observations and the conversations that you support are the exact opposit of the proposals by Rozman and Rhee. Maybe you are just being polite to start a conversation, but when negotiating something as dangerous as VAMs, we need demonstrations of good faith.
I was in academics before crack hit my neighborhood and I shifted to the inner city, and I still revere the methods we used to prompt honest conversations. For instance, a scholar was bond by tradition to accurately summarize the arguments and evidence of their opponent. The TNTP consistently does the opposite. If it wanted honest conversations it would have :
a) Declared how many teachers in NYC's ATR were teaching every day,
b) adcknowledged the number of Toledo teachers who were counseled out of the professions using the type of conversations you endorse,
c) given accurate statements to Steve Brill for his New Yorker piece; Weisberg quotes in Brill's piece were very different than Weisberg's statements that were run passed an editor in the Widget Effect, and
d) the footnotes that were the only source of Weisberg's statements would have not been the opposite of the words in the text.
VAMs in the hands of peer reviewers including principals may be a good idea. VAMs to supplement or complement evaluations may be a good idea. VAMs in the hands of administrators alone could be the death knell of urban education.
Teachers in the top quintile one year may have a 15% chance of being in the bottom the next year. If you have a 10 to 15% chance per year of being indicted as a bad teacher, what self-respecting person would teach, if it was the principal who had the power to abuse those numbers or not? And the validity gets much worse for high poverty neighborhood schools. And how do you compare results between a school where the principal can't or won't enforce discipliary consequences? Do you trust the administrator that set those policies to override VAMs?
Under VAMS, whenever a gang war breaks out, does that mean all teachers in that school have their jobs in jeopardy? I'm not going to put my career in the hands of an administrator to determine false positives when that administrator has never been punched, bloodied, had to deal with mentally ill students on one side of the room fighting with mentally ill kids on the other, never had classes where kids on one side of class have family members who've killed family members on the other side of the room, or hasn't been to so many funerals that he's lost track.
And that gets me back to Michelle Rhee who you mentioned previously. How do teachers have a conversation with her or the type of people she recruits? The whole purpose of conversation is to exchnage ideas so that we can all peer review each other's ideas and evidence.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.