Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ariel Sacks Is Right about One Thing, at Least

Namely, that we as teachers need to have more say in how we are evaluated. I've blogged here about teacher evaluation (here and here) because, let's face it, one formal observation a year doesn't really cut it. And if merit pay is going to happen, I sure as hell don't want it to be based on nothing more than one test that even the most bright, thoughtful, motivated student can blow for little or no reason.

Evaluation shouldn't be something that's "done to" teachers and it shouldn't be a process in which we are at the mercy of one principal or AP. It should be based on a variety of factors that are directly within our control--i.e. not just test scores, but professional development, collaboration with colleagues, curriculum writing/development, contribution to extracurricular activities, tutoring, etc. Any teacher who gets that involved in the life of a school is probably no major disaster in the classroom, anyway. Likewise, teachers who can't be as involved at various times--new baby, health concerns, etc.--but can nevertheless still teach good lessons and help their students should get a pass, too.

A system like this wouldn't just be more flexible, more balanced, more fair--it would be much harder to "game," either by those (very few) truly lazy and incompetent teachers or by vindictive principals. A teacher who really busts his or her butt to make the whole school a better place for all kids would be almost impossible to "get rid of"--as well it should be. We should protect those teachers from the winds of change and the whims of circumstance. That truly would be putting children first.

I guess maybe I should get serious about posting more on this subject. I have a lot of thoughts on it. And, as always, I want to hear yours. And, Ariel, if you're back, throw yours in--what would be a fair way to evaluate teachers? What should make up the evaluation pie? And why are people so obsessed with getting rid of "bad" teachers? How many teachers seriously do "read the newspaper all day"? Jeez, my students hate when I put on a movie because I'm guaranteed to make them answer hard questions about it, and I stop the movie every 37 seconds to make them notice something or think about something. I seriously don't buy this epidemic of newspaper-reading. But I digress.

Comment away.