Home Author Sue Culverhouse New Teacher Evaluation Model – Fair or Foul?

Sue Culverhouse

New Teacher Evaluation Model – Fair or Foul?

Somewhere someone came up with the idea that society’s woes can be attributed to poor teaching. Consequently, all teachers now need to be evaluated by a new system that is supposed to weed out the “bad teachers” and “reward the good ones.” Of course, no model for rewards has been forthcoming; no raises have been promised.

However, the new system with a rating from one to five has been promoted as having the following percentages of each grade:

Score Predicted Distribution
1 3 to 5%
2 15 to 25%
3 40 to 50%
4 15 to 25%
5 5 to 10%

Teachers have been told that these numbers are just estimates, but many teachers interpret these numbers to mean that getting a 5 is nearly impossible, especially after considering the following:

Each teacher who has tenure will be observed four times during the school year: two 15-minute observations and two one-hour observations. The one-hour observations will be one announced and one unannounced.

Also here is how the overall score (1 to 5) will be determined:

  • 50% will come from observations
  • 35% will come from TVAAS scores (look below for explanation)
  • 15% will come from an “Achievement Measure Score” (see below)

TVAAS is the term for “Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.”

TVAAS is a statistical system that takes the gains each student makes from year to year and compares it to the gains made by a normative sample for that same subject between those same grades.

In other words, it measures how much the students have learned according to standardized testing.

As for the “Achievement Measure Score” teachers are being allowed to select from certain other criteria like graduation percentages, TCAP Writing Assessment scores, and other statistical devices to measure student learning. Some teachers have to decide what they choose as their measure (but well before any of these statistics can be compiled.)

Weekly bulletins are coming down to counties from the State to try to determine exactly how all these things work. In other words, no one is quite sure yet what they are doing.

Teachers are being evaluated in the classroom observations in 12 different areas. Each area has numerous qualifications to meet.

Now we come to the money end of the deal. Tennessee has received huge amounts of money from Race to the Top in order to improve the educational system in our “near the bottom of the heap” location. How all this is being spent is a mystery.

What we can look at is how much time is being spent on this process.

Literally thousands of hours are being poured into teaching administrators and teachers how to cope with this system. First, last year Tennessee tried out numerous systems to see which one was best. (My suspicions tell me that the chosen method had something to do with the vast amount of money it cost.)

Then administrators had to take week-long plus day-long classes on how to evaluate teachers. Teachers are still taking hours and hours of training and administrators meet weekly to get more training.

Results are that most principals and assistant principals plus many administrators at the county level are spending 80 to 90 per cent of their time on these evaluations. Multiply the number of teachers in a school times 2.5 hours of being observed in the classroom. Add time for pre-conferences and post conferences. Get the picture?

Each teacher is spending numerous hours on special lesson plans (some teachers report they are spending as much as 30 hours a week on writing super-detailed lesson plans!) and preparations for observations. Teachers are already overburdened with standardized testing, statistics, etc. It boils down to more work, no more money.

Principals and assistant principals are also being observed. They have16 pages of information on which their evaluations are based. One can only guess that a county-level administrator will have to follow a principal around all day and watch her observe teachers (not that principals don’t have other tasks to perform like dealing with discipline, parents, budgeting, paperwork, etc.

What are the results of this wonderful system? Are children getting a better education? Get serious!

Reports of teachers who are stressed to the max are rampant. Many teachers are literally crying at home and at school because their nerves are so near the edge. They are worried that the profession they love is now becoming no longer a joy but a nightmare. Nearly every teacher is calculating how long before he or she can retire or find another job. The double-edged sword of low salaries with the additional stress of trying to meet these extra job requirements is causing every teacher to question whether or not teaching is worthwhile.

The message from upper management is, “Decide if you can cope with this system because it’s not going to change. If you can’t deal with it, look elsewhere for some other type of work.”

The sad fact is that any teacher who has been in the public schools for more than five years knows that this is just the latest swing of the pendulum. Every few years some “genius” comes up with a new wrinkle in education.

In reality, every system of judging someone else is subjective. If the evaluator likes the person’s methods, the grade is likely to be higher—and vice versa.

Will this system work? Probably not. What it is doing right now is driving intelligent people out of the public schools because they are simply not going to pinch and scrape to make a living and put up with being put under ridiculous amounts of stress that prevent their doing a good job in the classroom.

Teachers don’t want to spend hours trying to make themselves look good on paper when they don’t have enough time to pour their energy into improving classroom learning.

Teachers are not the enemy. They should not be made the scapegoats of society. Many factors enter into a child’s learning. Teachers can’t repair every trauma that has happened to a child before he walks into the classroom. They can do their best to educate these children but they are not responsible for lack of parenting, multiple learning disabilities, societal pressures, economic downturns, and the myriad other factors that can prevent learning.

The new evaluation system claims to make learning better but it is just like the guy who shoots himself in the foot before the big race; the premise is faulty and the results are catastrophic. The time and money it is wasting can be better spent on basics in the classroom.

Take this wasteful evaluation system and send it where it belongs—File 13!

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