I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, February 11, 2013

No Trust For Principals

Carol Burris, who I will henceforth refer to as America's Principal™, has a clever piece out today about what's it's like to be trained as a teacher evaluator in our brave, new, reformy world.
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?


Unknown said...

I find that what is most interesting about this article is that schools functioned much better when principals were allowed to evaluate the teachers in their schools and teachers were allowed to participate in unions without fear of reprisal. We didn't go into teaching because we wanted to be rich. We went into teaching because we wanted to enrich the lives of children...

Galton said...

Correct again. They are trying to control the Reliabilty of the instrument. They don't really care about the VALIDITY .
If a bathroom scale is nearly always 5 pounds too heavy, it is reliable. But not valid.

Unknown said...

Validity, Schmalidity. These teacher evaluations are reformy spectacle. The people mandating this garbage are controlling the reliability and dictating the score distribution.

I got reliable with unnamed 'experts' after 2 separate trainings without watching the videos. Not ONE second of the videos did I observe. That's one super sensitive test of quality teaching, dontcha think?

TN's TEAM eval is a 1 - 5 rubric that, according to Michael Milken's finest, 65% of teachers are 3s. 1% are 1s and no one is a 5. The ONLY concern of TfA extraordinaire, Kevin-Rhee-ex-Huffman, TN Education Commissioner, is that principals are giving too many 4's and 5s.

Thus exposes one more example of the rot at the core of reformy movement.