The trainers went on to explain why we were there. We would have four sessions to prepare for Calibration Day. We would learn “the tool,” and watch teaching videos for two days. Day Three—the pre-test. Day Four—Calibration Day and the Calibration Event. We would see a video of a teacher, use the rubric to rate her, and then try to sync up with the Master Coder.
“If you miss one or two, you might not be misaligned,” one of the Ambassadors reassured us. The Music Man was right—they surely have mistaken us for printers.
A colleague from another district asked, “Does the video pause on Calibration Day?” The Ambassador replied, “I am not sure, but I am going to speak for the tool…..”Personally, I would never speak for the tool...
Yes, folks, our educational leaders - the people the reformyists tell us must be given the power to hire and fire teachers at will - are being forced to evaluate their staffs using a protocol they didn't select. So let's give them lots of power to manage their staffs!
Except let's not...
The notion of "calibration" speaks volumes about the impetus for all this. The primary goal is to increase inter-rater reliability; that's why administrators are using a common language. But that doesn't mean the evaluation is more objective; it just means a value system other than the principal's is being imposed on the evaluation. The question is whether those values will yield better evaluations than any particular principal's.
In some cases, it probably will - but in other cases, it almost certainly won't. Take Burris, whose success as a high school principal is beyond dispute. Does anyone seriously think that imposing "the tool" on her is going to make her better at her job? I'm not saying Burris is perfect, but hasn't she demonstrated the ability to judge for herself whether a particular "tool" will work for her school and her staff? Are we so willing to mess with her success that we will supersede the judgment of Burris, her superintendent, and her board of education just so we can get her "calibrated"?
Of course, this begs the question: why is it so important to have an evaluation system that places consistency among administrators of varying effectiveness over the ability of effective leaders to evaluate their own staffs as they see fit?
To me, the answer is clear: the people imposing this stuff want to ramp up the number of teacher firings. They figure they have a much better chance of dumping more teachers if they can show the evaluation process is "objective." That's why they love the idea of basing so much of a teacher's evaluation on standardized tests; the patina of objectivity gives cover for principals to show more teachers the door.
That leads to more teacher churn, which keeps wages low, disempowers unions, creates an incentive to put more of the school day into less manpower-intensive "digital learning," and takes decision-making out of the hands of educators. A school system with low-wage, cowed, and disenfranchised teachers is what many of these folks crave.
Teachers instinctively sense this, which is why they have so little faith in the top-down overhauls of their evaluations. More on this in a bit.
Have you guys seen the new principal?