(It’s time for one of my periodic “/RantOn” posts. Sorry, right up front, for the tone – this is (hopefully) an uncharacteristic “no more Mister Nice Guy” moment! A /RantOn is always about a topic that deeply frustrates good classroom teachers by preventing us from teaching!)
I just discovered and started to follow the Education Matters blog. It’s based in Florida, but could be in any state in the nation. It quickly became clear that the blogger shares my passion for identifying the real problems with education, and after reading a post on the site, it also became clear that he had reached the boiling point on yet another inept evaluation system crafted by career DoE bureaucrats who had no experience, training, or knowledge in HR best practices.
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When talking about HR practices, as the current bromide goes, “…it’s complicated.” Yet in every state across the nation, career DoE bureaucrats are developing and mandating evaluation metrics based upon concepts long ago abandoned by experienced HR professionals. In Massachusetts, for example, the DoE “experts” designed an evaluation system that evaluated teachers across 33 different metrics, that focused upon a teacher’s “…ability to motivate students,” and that made the results of standardized testing a critical part of the process.
Think about that from a professional HR perspective! It fails on all three tenets based upon proven HR best practices that experienced HR pros have been using since the late 1980s.
- 33 metrics: Every experienced HR pro in the nation will laugh at the concept of evaluating someone on 33 metrics — those average out to be just 3%, each, of a teacher’s activities! Evaluation of more than 5-8 metrics is the maximum that leads to an effective, closed-loop evaluation – anything beyond that waters down the process so much that the evaluation becomes useless. A 3% item is equivalent to evaluating a fireman on how well he cleans his boots after a fire.
- Focus on motivation: A good idea – emphasize how well a teacher can motivate children – is, as usual, twisted and undermined by inept implementation that ignores the realities of a classroom. At the same time the career DoE bureaucrats are judging how well we motivate children, they are also the source of the motivations-destroying accommodation allowing two-thirds of my standard level algebra students to retake any test they fail. More than half of these same children also have the motivations-sapping accommodation of “…gets an ‘A’ for doing 50% of the work expected of the rest of the class.” And all of these children long ago learned that inept DoE mandates will have administrators force promotion if they fail. Classic career DoE ineptitude – one hand gives, and the other hand takes away, undermines, and destroys.
- Tie to standardized testing: Any knowledge of classroom realities would show how ineffective and unreliable standard test scores are in evaluating a teacher. A teacher of honors classes will do far better than an equal teacher of standard classes. A teacher in most suburban high schools will do far better than an equal teacher in most urban high schools. A teacher with a heavy complement of ESL and IEP students in a class of 30 will do far worse than an equal teacher in a small class without inclusion students. If just these three examples – and there are many more! – show that two equal teachers could have widely different standard test score results, then how can test scores possibly be seen as an accurate and fair primary measure of teacher effectiveness? It is an inane premise.
It is no surprise that the blogger at Education Matters lets his deep frustration show at living with yet another career DoE bureaucrat mandate that undermine a teacher’s ability to teach! Please visit and see the rest of his posts!
Here is his understandably frustrated look at Florida’s new teacher evaluation system:
Thanks Florida for inspiring me to be mediocre.
(Re-blogged with permission from Education Matters)
I wanted to thank the state of Florida for inspiring me to be mediocre, my principal and students and their parents may not be so grateful. You see senate bill 736 which ties teacher evaluations to teacher pay is in full effect this year. When the state legislature passed the bill they said they would be rewarding the best teachers but the truth is they have inspired most of the best teachers, those with experience and a proven track record to just get by.
As a veteran teacher with a professional contract, one I have to renew every five years, I am guaranteed a job as long as I prove to be effective and don’t commit any acts of moral turpitude. In short I can’t be fired just because my principal doesn’t like me for refusing to work prom, leaving before six, he has a neighbor’s cousin who wants to try the job or some other reason. I am also not eligible for merit pay.
Now I could give all of above up and go on a one year contract where I could be fired for any reason at the end of the year but I don’t think that’s a good idea and most veteran teachers agree with me.
Now here’s the rub, I only have to score an 80 on a 200 point scale to be considered effective something I could probably do sleep walking through the day in my pajamas. To give you some scale last year I received 77 points in student growth, which means I only needed three points from my principal (I got sixty), now it’s true this year I have to depend on the district average for reading teachers, but as things stand now that’s just 20 points.
Segue, half of my evaluation is based on a subject I don’t, teaching students I don’t know at schools I don’t work at. Welcome to Florida where up is down, black is white and people who want to dismantle public education are in charge.
My career has been turned into a game of get to 80 points, because at 80 I am effective and I will get paid the same as I would have had I gotten to 200, not that anybody in my district, who has to depend on the averages of a group of teachers to get their student growth scores is going to get to close to 200 anyway.
Lesson plans? What’s the point I can only lose ten points if I don’t do them.
Professional development? Nope I can free up my afternoons now because the most I can lose for that is another ten too.
Using Data and creating a nurturing environment are now optional as well.
It might be difficult to half ass the rest of my career but every time I feel bad for not giving my all to my students I can just think about the disrespect the state of Florida has heaped upon me and all the other professional teachers.
There are other small problems too, like how merit pay has very little evidence that says it works and tons that says it doesn’t and the states use of VAM scores that don’t factor in poverty and the Department of Education says are wrong more than a third of the time but to be honest what does it matter to me. I have just effectively toiled for the last 14 years for the honor of having to just score an eighty on my evaluation for the rest of it.
So Florida, thanks, not for the opportunity to earn more money but the clarity to know from now on I come first.