Who Would Have Thought …?

[OMG. It is obvious that I will do almost anything to avoid housework. It’s the day before Christmas. While everyone else is out shopping or busy decorating their homes for the holidays, I am here posting on my blog. It’s about time. I know. It’s not that I don’t have stuff to say. I just have not had the time, made the time, or had the energy. My family’s celebrations have devolved over the past few years–they have become pretty laid back and lackadaisical. But, to the rest of you: HAPPY HOLIDAZE!]

Am I one of a few people who was taken aback and disappointed to discover that no one may have been minding the store?  That so few were supervising with appropriate levels of oversight and attention to detail?  That the powers that be and the folks in charge neither established nor effectively maintained high standards?  That too many managers and supervisors could not or would not take action when they observed less than satisfactory performance, when expectations were not met, when basic practices were not in place?  That some administrators fell short, failing to take responsibility or to have the difficult conversations required by the circumstances? 

Was it really necessary for edreform, school turn-around regulations, and Race-to-the-Top initiatives to be the forces that made everyone wake up and pay attention to details that apparently eluded them for decades?  Where’s a capable and thorough anthropologist when you need one?

Whose fault is it that, …

  • some colleges may have allowed unqualified, less than well-prepared, dysfunctional, or poorly motivated students to enter teacher preparation programs at their institutions?
  • these same colleges may have permitted students who clearly failed to demonstrate adequate progress to continue in teacher preparation programs?
  • a few colleges may have allowed students whose performance could only be judged as mediocre or poor to graduate and move on to jobs in our public schools?
  • students with less than stellar records and with little or no documentation of outstanding performance during student teaching have been hired somewhere by someone who should have known better?
  • new teacher hiring was delayed until the summer months—even as belatedly as mid- to late-August, relegated to the time of year when they all should be dedicated to getting everyone off to a good start of another new school year?  
  • new teachers who did not or could not meet the most basic classroom requirements and standards during their first year were not exited from the job at the end of Year One?
  • substandard performance of probationary teachers—new teachers within their first three years on the job—was not noticed, noted, documented, and acted upon?
  • mediocre, second-rate, unsatisfactory, less than effective and even poor teachers have been granted tenure by some building administrators?

[Let me clarify the concept of tenure . Here in Delaware, teachers may be granted tenure; however, contrary to popular mythology and rhetoric, it is NOT a guarantee of a “job for life.”  Prior to tenure, a teacher’s status is considered probationary—he or she may be let go with no requirement of due process—no obligation for the school or district to justify the termination of services.  Once one has been granted tenure, then one may not be fired without guaranteed due process.  This means one thing: The employee may request a hearing and the district must provide documentation of poor performance or a rationale for the termination.  That’s it.  That’s all there is to it.] 

So, once again, whose fault is it that, …

  • some administrators who conduct teacher evaluation seem unable or unwilling to follow the clearly described, unambiguous, fairly easy-to-follow steps laid out in the big gray or white notebooks that detail requirements for the documentation and evaluation of teaching practice?
  • any evaluator’s failures to follow the process outlined by the Delaware Performance Assessment System (DPAS) may force a teacher’s union representative to intervene? [This is not an easy thing to do, but we will step in, and we catch a great deal of flak over this, but really—how hard is it to follow the steps laid out on pages 37-41 of the damned notebook????]
  • district-level supervision of the entire evaluation process has been lax or non-existent; evaluations may have been checked off as they were turned in but they were rarely assessed; invalid inferences, inaccurate information, incomplete documentation, or inappropriate comments may never have been discovered, remedied, or retrained?
  • in the past, evaluation training of both teachers and administrators may have been inconsistent, spotty, or misguided?

It is my contention and it has been my experience that:

  • good teachers do not go bad.
  • employee evaluation is a management responsibility.
  • expectations surrounding the assessment of teacher performance are not all that different than the assessment of students—administrators’ actions, accuracy, and evidence should at least match or exceed what is required for teachers as they assess student progress.
  • adequate, effective, relevant, well-designed, expertly-delivered, model professional development has not been offered in the past and is not currently being presented. It’s not rocket science. Why is this so hard??? I know it exists. 
  • we are all of us accountable for student success:
    • Teachers and education support professionals (ESP) must work to reach and motivate every student.
    • Parents and families must instill values of respect, responsibility, and a love for learning.
    • Students must come to school ready to learn and to behave in a respectful manner to all.
    • The wider school community must be prepared to give support to schools and the families that they serve.
    • Elected officials must give students and teachers the resources they need and deserve.

Just as it has been my job to assess, measure, and evaluate my students’ levels of progress, growth, and success, it has always been the responsibility of others to ensure that (1) qualified students entered teacher training, that (2) these students met adequate benchmarks along the way, that (3) the training of pre-service teachers was rigorous and demanding, and that (4) the training program prepared all future teachers for the realities and expectations of today’s classrooms.  

District and school administrators must conduct teacher evaluation with honesty, objectivity, accuracy, and fidelity to the process.  The resulting observations and comments must be fair, valid, genuine, and supportive of the intent of the evaluation process—continuous teacher improvement. 

The evaluation process must be applied fairly and truthfully in order to differentiate the best teaching from that which is satisfactory; to distinguish ineffective teaching from that which is completely inappropriate, inadequate, or unimproved.  Inadequate teachers, who have been given the chance and have not shown improvement, can be and should be exited from the teaching profession.  There is a process.  It does take time and attention to detail.  I have seen it used effectively by several principals who cared enough to do it and to do it correctly.  If a probationary teacher has not demonstrated adequate progress in three years time, then, common sense tells us that he/she should not continue as a teacher. 

Good teachers, effective teachers, highly-qualified teachers—however you choose to categorize them—would be the last ones to wish to work alongside, or to clean up after, an ineffective teacher.

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This entry was posted in "Reform Experts", Accountability, Attacks on Unions, Education Professionals, Education Reform, Education Transformation, Education Unions, New Teachers, Professional Development, Quality Teachers/Quality Teaching, School Administrators, School Improvement, Teacher Education Programs, Teacher Evaluation, Teacher Tenure, Teacher Unions, Teachers and Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Who Would Have Thought …?

  1. pat says:

    A thoughtful, reflective and insightful post–what a refreshing holiday gift! Thank you for taking the time to articulate so well what needs saying.

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