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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Teacher Evaluation System That Rube Goldberg Would Love

Rube Goldberg Machine
Today our district explained our Teacher/Leader Evaluation (TLE) process. At least that was the objective of the "lesson" we were given. (We're all about objectives now that we are following the Marzano---ALL HAIL MARZANO--system.)  I am not certain that the lesson was completely clear for everyone.

But here is as much as I was able to take away from it.

Basically, there are three parts to the system (like Gaul in a way). 

First there is the Marzano (ALL HAIL MARZANO) part, which is 50% of our evaluation.  We will be evaluated on how well we are doing on the "Domains" that Marzano (ALL HAIL MAR--well, you get the joke) has established as the practices of effective teachers, things like posting learning goals, classroom management, assessing student progress, and so on. 
All Hail Marzano, the new God of Public Education!

Ok, fair enough. This provides an effective model for classroom instruction, though most of this is pouring new wine into old wine skins. In other words, it's stuff we have been doing in one form or another just given new names. 

Then it gets a little weird.  The next part of our evaluation comes from student performance. How well students do on their high performance tests.  This accounts for 35% of our evaluation, and it makes teaching a high poverty student body a very risky prospect indeed.

  But we are told to have no fear, that all is well.

Our student performance evaluation will be based on the Value Added Model (VAM).  What this bit of magic professes to do is PREDICT how much a teacher should be doing to bring his or her students up to speed and evaluates how well the teacher did. The model takes in factors like how much time the student is with a particular teacher, how that student has performed in the past, how well the student should be doing if he was with a teacher given how the student has performed in the past, family factors (I swear that during part of the presentation that fairy dust, unicorn horns, and the Elder Wand were involved), and so on.
The creator of the VAM

And now it gets really weird.  There is still 15% of our evaluation left.  And that part is up to us, sort of.  We then have to come up with 
Actually, that is OAM or "Other Academic Measures." Here we select a couple of things we feel we should be evaluated on that are appropriate to our teaching area.  For example, if I were to teach Advanced Placement English, then I might choose as a part of my evaluation how my students did on the AP exams.  Or if I taught music, then how my students did in competitions.  So in all, 50% of my evaluation could be centered on student performance.

Of course, all of this is really a first impression, but the impression is that this system is rather complex and rather subjective.  I fear that due to this evaluation method, teachers will more and more choose NOT to teach in schools that are already low-performing because of the inherent risk factors involved in an evaluation process that rides on whether or not those students, despite their socioeconomic backgrounds, respond to the teacher's best efforts.  The schools with the highest need will be the ones that the best teachers will avoid at all cost.

I fear that this is a train wreck in the making.

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