The Teacher Evaluation System That Is Discouraging Teachers
By TLB Contributing Author: Lorana Hoopes
A while back, I heard a story of a college professor who was wanting to teach his class about the dangers of socialism. His experiment went like this. He gave his students a test. The students who studied got good grades, and the students who didn’t study didn’t, but as the lesson was socialism, he took the scores and averaged them and gave everyone the same score. Now the students who didn’t study were elated because their grade was higher, but the students who did study were rightfully angry as they now received a lower grade than what they actually learned. The next time he gave the test, fewer students studied, expecting those who did to still carry them and the scores were lower. Finally, the students who were studying stopped studying and everyone failed. The reason? If they couldn’t get the grade they earned, why continue to work hard?
This is what we call intrinsic motivation, and as teachers we work hard to develop this in students. When they’re young, they might get stickers or candy for doing their work, but as they get older, we try to instill in them their own motivation. Do it well for the grade or to get into the college you want or simply for the pleasure of doing a good job. It’s an ongoing process, but we’re working at it, and the last thing teachers want to do is discourage students. It’s why we offer makeups and do curves and sometimes extra credit.
So why then, are teachers not getting the same courtesy?
When our new teacher evaluation system came out, I was not pleased to say the least. Not because I think I’m a bad teacher, but because it seemed like a bunch of busy work to prove I’m a good teacher. If you want to know if I’m a good teacher, come sit in my room, ask my students, listen to them in the hallway.
I was never good at the metacognition part of college because my brain isn’t wired that way. I don’t want to spend hours pondering why what I did worked or didn’t, I just want concrete ways to improve. So, this teacher evaluation was a nightmare for me because it’s a lot of thinking about why you did things. Then I looked at the rubric, and I was even more appalled.
This system was supposed to be more factual and less opinionated, but the wording is still all opinion based. The reviewer decides if most or just some of the children are paying attention. The reviewer decides if the students are highly or just somewhat engaged. See? It’s still all opinion. But that isn’t the worst part. The worst part is what they expect you to do to be “distinguished.”
One of the criteria to get distinguished is that you do an internship in the summer in your field. In other words, you must do work for free during the summer when you are already planning for the next year. One of them is that the students basically lead the class and the discussion. This may work in some classes, but think of your average class. There will be some motivated students and a lot who want to just sit there. Trying to get these students to take control of an education they don’t believe in (more on that in another article) is like pulling teeth, and yet if I don’t do it, I’m not a distinguished teacher.
Even adults don’t always do this well. Think of your last staff meeting. Does the boss come in and say, “Okay, here’s the topic, now lead the meeting?” Of course not, because the boss is the one with the information and therefore needs to be the one teaching it, but not according to this rubric. This “Distinguished” title is so elusive that they tell us we can “never live there, we can only visit.”
If I told my students they could never achieve an overall “A,” but could only visit, I would either be fired or have a major talking to. Why? Because telling a student they can’t get an A would discourage them from doing their best. So, why are we telling teachers this?
Growing up, I was always that student who asked for extra credit even if I had a 98. When I had my first evaluation under this new system and was told I just had to be okay with “Proficient,” I went home and cried. Proficient to me felt like being a “C” student, and while that is okay for some, it was never okay for me, but even after spending countless hours printing papers and thinking of new ways to teach and attending workshops and scoring trainings to help my students, I still was only proficient. The next year, I attended more workshops and led my PLC, and I was still only Proficient.
If a teacher can never attain Distinguished, why will they keep trying?
This is not to say that teachers will become bad teachers, but they might stop doing the “extra” things. See, teachers have a life outside of teaching as well. Most of us have families we go home to and want to spend time with, but this Distinguished category basically says you must eat, sleep, and breathe teaching. It is not attainable, and it is going to burn teachers out even faster than they are burning out now, which is five years. Most teachers don’t last past five years before deciding they would rather do anything else.
And, here’s an even bigger kicker. There were three systems proposed in my state a few years ago, though I can only discuss two as I don’t remember the third. One was Marzano – proposed by a man who has never been a teacher as far as I can tell and the other was Danielson – who wrote the system as a check for herself and said it was never meant to be used as a teacher evaluation system, and yet it is.
So, while this isn’t exactly the same as the analogy at the beginning because we aren’t sharing grades, it’s pretty close. If a teacher works their butt off to get Distinguished and still gets labeled Proficient just like the teacher down the hall who does nothing extra, then they will start losing the drive to strive to do more. This teacher evaluation tool will start to encourage mediocrity and burn out.
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About the Author/Host: Lorana Hoopes is a The Liberty Beacon Project (TLB) Contributing Author and TLBTV Host. Lorana brings a solid background in education, teaching our children, as a published author, and many other talents into this project.
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