Outstanding, good, satisfactory, needs improvement, unsatisfactory. And that’s our evaluation – a teacher evaluation checklist. Helpful, isn’t it?
Teacher evaluation is an integral part of improving achievement in the classroom and yet studies show that most teacher evaluations are usually “rosy.” A national report created by the New Teacher Project shows that evaluations do not necessarily reflect performance.
Would we let ourselves get away with this when assessing our students? No, and yet a teacher evaluation checklist is the norm for many teacher reviews.
The study found that there were only two ratings for teachers – good or great. We’d love to believe all teachers are good or great, but the reality is most of us have areas in which we could improve. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, only fourteen states require annual teacher evaluations. In addition, the quality of the evaluations is often sorely lacking.
In their 2008 article, “Avoiding a Rush to Judgment: Teacher Evaluation and Teacher Quality,” Thomas Toch and Robert Rothman refer to most evaluations as “drive-bys.” These are single visits to a classroom by an administrator, who is usually untrained in evaluating teachers. Says Professor Mary Kennedy of Michigan State University, author of Inside Teaching: How Classroom Life Undermines Reform:
It’s typically a couple of dozen items on a teacher evaluation checklist: ‘Is presentably dressed,’ ‘Starts on time,’ ‘Room is safe,’ ‘The lesson occupies students.’ In most instances, it’s nothing more than marking ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory.’
Often the items on the teacher evaluation checklist do not focus on the teacher’s instruction or the quality thereof. What we know of the value of formative assessment ought to be related to the area of teacher evaluation: that is, teachers must be given feedback on what matters in a clear way. They need to be evaluated on a variety of classroom activities – not a single drop-in visit – as well as on lesson plans, assessment techniques, professional development goals,and more. As with formative assessment, feedback is essential and needs to be accompanied by suggestions for improvement.
Teacher evaluations can be extremely productive if done effectively. Teachers need to be involved, and evaluators need a higher degree of training as well as in determining the criteria on which to evaluate. Evaluation needs to be meaningful, not merely a teacher evaluation checklist used every few years.