But damn these corporate reformers - they've figured out our nefarious scheme!
The state announced new twists Wednesday in its effort to devise better teacher evaluations: requiring unannounced classroom observations, including some by educators from outside the teacher’s building.
Now teachers typically are told in advance when they are to be observed in the classroom for formal evaluations, which often are conducted by their supervisors. The precise conditions for observations often are spelled out in union contracts. A spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association declined to comment on the new guidelines late Wednesday. [emphasis mine]Oh, no! Now how will a school's staff ever finish their crosswords and download porn?! Because that's the only justification for this kind of discourtesy and suspicion: a belief on the part of the NJ DOE that there is widespread laziness, incompetence, and indifference on the part of teachers who only do a good job when Big Brother is watching.
You know, maybe there should be some unannounced visits to the double-secret charter school review panels. Or when the super-secret new high school exams are constructed. No? Oh, I see: you don't trust us, or our administrators, but we're supposed to trust you.
When we were talking about cameras in the classroom a year ago, here's what I wrote:
In any case, there is plenty that can go wrong in this sort of research:This really is about picking nits. And the more we do that, and demoralize teachers, the more we turn teaching into a job instead of a profession.
It may well be as it seems on its face in this case. But those of you who are teachers probably read that and thought just what I did: that teacher may well have ignored that boy because he raises his hand inappropriately all the time and she's not about to give him the satisfaction of controlling the class or stopping other students' learning.Cynthia M. Tocci, director of a research center at the Educational Testing Service, used the framework to critique a vocabulary lesson taped last month by a fifth-grade teacher in Charlotte.Half an hour into the video, Dr. Tocci noticed that a boy with his hand up had grown impatient after the teacher failed repeatedly to call on him. Eventually the boy threw up his hands in frustration. The teacher had not noticed.“That’s poor on respect and rapport,” Dr. Tocci said, scoring the lesson with 2 points, out of a possible 4, in that category. (Only egregious disrespect — an open exchange of classroom insults — would rate a 1 in the respect category, she said.)
Every teacher has students like this: they have to give an opinion on EVERYTHING, and they want to control the class with their incessant questioning. We can have a legitimate discussion about how to deal with these students, but the fact here is that Dr. Tocci is making a judgment without all of the facts, AND she's missing something obvious a veteran teacher would almost certainly pick up on.
I have long been an advocate of peer-review: it's useful, it's non-threatening, and you're getting feedback from the folks who are down in the trenches with you. I'm not NBPTS certified, but I've known teachers from back in Florida who did the program and found it very useful. Videotapes are used as a portfolio that you get feedback on, and not as a substitute for walk-in evaluations.
I'm much less in favor of this. Nit-picking by "experts" isn't really going to do much to improve teacher quality.
But I guess that's the point.