Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Make the Grade

This week a local station ran a story titled Do Jefferson County Teachers Make The Grade? and all I could think was "Oh good. Another one." Did they really need to run this story? There's going to be a huge news story in less than a month about how bad local teachers are. Did we need to be beat down one more time? Really, WHAS-11? Really? This story probably annoyed me more than it should, but what the heck, my school just went through an audit! These were the feelings I had before I even read or watched the story.

Then I come to find out the story is about how to fire bad teachers and the evaluation process in general. I'm still peeved, but perhaps a bit less so. Several sentences in, I was still treated to the ominous "Of the more than 6,000 full time teachers in Jefferson County, some are good -- and not so good." I'm not going to lie. There are bad teachers; just like there are bad lawyers, bad cops, bad chefs, bad waiters, bad TV repairmen and bad hairstylists. The difference is that teachers have to be perfect all the time, across the board, or we risk damaging the image of all teachers for at least a time.

I also dislike some of what the writer had to say on the evaluation process:
Under the current evaluation system, new teachers - or non-tenured - are evaluated once a year with goal setting and a growth plan.
Um, not at my school? Where I teach, all teachers are required to complete a growth plan, which is evaluated and approved by their administrator. This growth plan is meant to be measured and you are expected to keep up with it all year long. Yes, even the tenured teachers.
For tenured teachers who've been on the job four years or more, evaluations may only happen once every three years. Often times, the teachers know ahead of time.
A formal observation does only happen once every three years in our school, however, every teacher in the building is still treated to random, unannounced learning walks (surprise observations) many times a year. I've had over half a dozen myself. The only warning I get is the two seconds it takes the administrator to jingle their keys in my door to surprise me. We receive feedback on each of these visits.

I don't know what's so wrong with knowing ahead of time that there will be a formal observation, either. In a formal observation, your administrator needs to know your standards you are teaching to as well as have the materials for the class. I'm not one to roll off standards like RD-09-3.0.7 as an administrator walks through the door. And frankly? My kids are freshman. I need to warn them that someone is coming. Don't misunderstand me. It's not to make them put on an act or anything. No, they are curious, distractable beings who need to know when there is a routine change, like an added adult in the room. The article's assertion that teachers knowing ahead of time can explain good evaluations of bad teachers with "anyone can create a lesson for a day" is downright rude.

Yeah, anyone can plan one lesson, but you can't fake classroom management and a lot of other things that are a part of the evaluation. I'm sorry, but making sure that the evaluation process does not take away from my students' learning is far more important than someone believing in the delusion that I'm putting on a show for a day.

Is it hard to fire a teacher? Yes. Why? Because if it was easy, everyone would do it. The procedures in place are there for the protection of teachers because, as hard as it is to believe, students and parents can lie about teachers. Take me, for instance. Today, I had to deal with a student claiming I cussed him out and called him names in the hallway. Did I? Absolutely not. Thank God there's a lot of hoops to jump through to fire me. My administrators didn't even have to question if his statement was true because of all the evaluations I've received in my short time as a teacher.

Bad teachers are a problem, but in attempting to get rid of the safeguards for teachers, we risk harming the good, innocent teachers who could suffer as a result. And when good, innocent teachers suffer, students suffer more.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so addicted to your blog, I had to give it a shout-out on mine: http://v-double-u.blogspot.com/2011/02/id-like-to-thank-academyof-fellow.html (you may have to scroll to see where I linked yours).

    Thanks for your honesty with every post. Keep 'em coming!

    :)

    ReplyDelete

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