Monday, November 17, 2014

Hold Me Accountable--Please. Then Help Me Grow

Hold me accountable, please. Then help me grow.

Several recent news articles and blogs have stirred the pot again about teacher evaluations, particularly using Value Added Measures and student/parent surveys. #oklaed bloggers Rob Miller and Jason James have taken on these issues with style. Both of these initiatives are straight from Bill Gates’ MET teacher evaluation scheme. And MET is straight from his former practice at Microsoft of stacking employee evaluations in order to fire the bottom rung. Way to grow your workplace. Even Gates has stepped away from stacking, but we are in the middle of the mess right now.

That got me thinking…WHY do we evaluate? To help people improve, or to fire them? WHAT do we evaluate? Why do we choose those items? What does it show about our values?

Our NCLB waiver from the feds requires we use a teacher evaluation that includes test scores, VAM. States were required to sell their teachers out to get the funds from Race to the Top.  So, we have TLE, a cumbersome, awkward mess that will evaluate all teachers. Will TLE help teachers improve?  We’ll see.

Teachers are being criticized for not bringing ideas and solutions to the table. Kinda hard to do, when the only time you get close to the table is if you’re on the menu.  I asked and offered for close to four years to be a part of the conversation about schools in this state.  Wasn’t even offered to be the entrĂ©e. Just ignored.

I DO have some ideas about what a fair evaluation could look like…one that could lead to teacher improvement and learning, and one that evaluates that which a teacher directly controls. thirty-nine years of teaching gave me with lots of time to think about teacher evaluation.

In this world, I control my decisions, my words, and my actions. Nothing more. What I think, what I say and what I do. So, any fair evaluation system must evaluate me on MY words and MY actions. Not the words and actions of others.

So, hold me accountable for what I do outside my classroom that affects my job.

Hold me accountable for being in my classroom on time, and staying until contract time is over. Brownie points for being early and staying late would be appreciated, but I am not holding my breath.

Hold me accountable for good attendance, for doing my best to be there every day. I’m not suggesting we come to school sick and contagious, or abandon our little ones at home who need our nursing. I’m saying, “be there.” Be someone students and parents can count on to be teaching.

Hold me accountable for reporting to my duty station on time and doing my duty; for attending meetings – department, faculty, IEP, committee—on time and participating in a positive manner.  Hold me accountable for being a supportive team or department member.

Hold me accountable for serving on district-level committees, representing my school.

Hold me accountable for attending all school-required professional development, and for seeking out PD opportunities that will make me a better teacher. Hold me accountable for being a self-actualized learner.

Hold me responsible for representing my school with dignity in the community, and for maintaining a professional digital footprint online. 

Hold me responsible for inviting parents into meaningful conversations about their children, for building partnerships that focus on student success.


My work inside the classroom is why I was hired. Hold me accountable for my words and actions and decisions that directly impact students in my class.

Hold me accountable for planning meaningful lessons incorporating research-based ideas.  Hold me accountable for knowing my subject, for being prepared every day.

Hold me accountable for knowing my students and their needs, for knowing how to reach each student during my lessons. Hold me accountable for a working knowledge of learning theory and the developmental realities of my students.

Hold me accountable for teaching…for engaging my students, for monitoring my lesson and adjusting according to evidence of student understanding. Hold me accountable for making those hundred or so decisions an hour that most of us make, seamlessly, while keeping the attention of restless young people.

Hold me accountable for using appropriate technology in my lessons.  Hold me accountable for lesson design that optimizes teaching and learning.

Hold me accountable for teaching bell-to-bell.

Hold me accountable for differentiating my lessons so all my students can be successful, for responding in a supportive way, to each and every one of my students, every day.

Hold me accountable for my feedback to students and parents, for grading student work quickly and accurately, giving feedback that stretches students’ thinking, even after the assignment is over.

Hold me accountable for recording grades in a timely manner, and having an up-to-date grade book that reflects students’ achievement.

Hold me accountable for teaching and learning during a unit. Using a teacher-created pre-and post-test, hold me accountable for what I taught and what students learned. Hold me accountable for using the results of my assessment to guide my reteaching and enrichment. To guide my future teaching.

Hold me accountable, please, but only for those things I control: my words, my actions, my decisions.

Many of these point could be compiled in a quick-ish checklist that an observer could use. Not all of them would be observed in the classroom, but could be part of an ongoing informal observation during the year. When I would be given the observation, I would provide documentation and clarification of points not noticed directly. I could give evidence of un-observed points. After the evaluation, I could add my findings and elaborate.

After all this, and here is the crucial part of accountability, this evaluation system could help me grow!

Help me identify the areas of weakness. Help me see them clearly, and help me improve. Is that not the ultimate reason to evaluate? VAM scores don’t tell me how to be a better teacher, student and parent surveys may be so skewed that they are of no use. HOW do I get better in this profession I’ve dedicated myself? What steps can I make to be a more responsive, aware educator in my classroom and out?

So I come back to my questions…why do we evaluate teachers, and what do we evaluate?  For me to feel confident about an evaluation, I must have answers. If I am expected to grow and learn from an evaluation, it must be based on those things I can change: my decisions, my words, my actions.

I have ideas. We all do. My list is just the beginning. What else should we add?

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