I noticed today that Louisiana passed a package of so-called education reforms that include teacher evaluations made up of 50% value-added data. This in spite of research suggesting serious flaws in the use of value-added models as an evaluation tool.
Tennessee is now in the midst of its first year with a similar evaluation model. And there certainly have been some serious and well-warranted complaints about the system.
I was discussing this very topic with a friend of mine who is a financial advisor.
He was trying to get at why teachers had so many complaints about being evaluated.
I explained that teachers have always been evaluated and that most teachers I talked to didn’t mind being evaluated, but that this particular process had its problems.
Then, I gave him a brief overview of the system in Tennessee.
And then he said: “And after you get your evaluation and score (1-5) back, you work on a performance management plan, right?”
I said, ” What?”
He said well surely after you get all this data and feedback, the teacher will work with their principal on a performance management plan and targeted training to improve.
Not because that’s not what should happen. It absolutely is.
I laughed because engaging in this sort of training and development is NOT at all part of the plan.
He explained that his company invested heavily in coaching for its employees. That evaluations resulted in a clear statement of strengths and weaknesses. That the company believed that by working with employees to constantly improve — and to design improvement plans WITH the employee targeted specifically to individual needs, the whole company would prosper.
And this is exactly what SHOULD happen with the evaluation system in Tennessee.
Teachers will get a set of feedback at the end of this year that is more comprehensive than many have gotten in a very long time.
And it would be ideal of that feedback could be used to develop a targeted, individual performance management plan that included meaningful professional development and possibly some personal coaching.
But, that’s not in the cards.
Instead, teachers will be handed back their evaluations and told “get better.”
They will be offered little more than whatever the district decides it can afford in terms of professional development. That could be a 3-day PD “Summit” with group sessions not targeted to specific teacher needs.
Beginning teachers are NOT offered focused mentoring in their first and second years, even though solid research suggests that mentoring of early-career teachers boosts both teacher satisfaction and student achievement.
Without the performance management plans and attendant professional development, it is difficult to believe that the evaluations are really about helping teachers.
Why is there no performance management plan? Because the tools necessary to make such a plan work would require a significant financial investment.
It’s hard for me to see how we can expect to improve teaching practice when at the end of the year, all we’re doing is giving teachers a number and suggesting they find ways to improve on their own.