Preemptive Support for Evaluations

Is it too cynical to be suspicious of union enthusiasm to develop evaluation standards for teachers?

The Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals has received a $200,000 national grant to develop a much more demanding method of evaluating and mentoring new teachers. The union will work closely with four urban school districts: Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls and Woonsocket.
“The union is tired of being portrayed as a protector of bad teachers,” said union president Marcia Reback. “We have no interest in having incompetent teachers in our classrooms. We want to have good, rigorous, substantial evaluations.”…
The peer-evaluation system would work as follows: a consulting teacher would observe, evaluate and mentor between 8 and 10 novice teachers over the course of a year. In the spring, the consulting teacher would recommend whether the new teacher should be awarded an additional contract. A board comprising administrators and union representatives would make its recommendation to the superintendent, who, in turn, would offer advice to the local school committee.

So a group of union reps and administrators (often previous members of the union) translate a union member’s review of another union member to the superintendent, who brings it to the elected representatives on the school committee. Sounds like an attempt to derail evaluations that would involve more stakeholders, such as students, parents, and taxpayers, at a more fundamental level.
It always rankles, by the way, to hear union executives talk about “our classrooms.” Perhaps public clarification of ownership is in order.

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Erin fo bragh
Erin fo bragh
11 years ago

I think our classroom was a reference to the workplace just like someone might say our garage or our wharehouse. Would you rather the teachers show no sense of ownership in the job and the workplace. Since the writer does not like this idea I am sure he has a better one already thought out that he is willing to share.

Bob W
Bob W
11 years ago

Having a paid “consulting teacher” evaluate new teachers is nonsense. Teachers should be evaluated by their supervisors,just like the rest of America. Were you ever evaluated by a hired outside “peer” or by the person who hired you?

Tabetha
Tabetha
11 years ago

In the past, teachers have always been evaluated by their administrators. However, administrators are not necessarily the people who hire teachers (unless the school is a charter school, site-based managed school, or private school). I personally would like to see more principal involvement in hiring and I do believe that has changed somewhat over the past few years, but typically teachers are hired by a district-level team. I worked for 8.5 years in Providence as a classroom teacher, literacy coach, and ELL specialist. Each time I was interviewed by a team and hired by that team. For the literacy coach and ELL specialist positions, the team included my direct supervisor (principal and director of ESL/bilingual education). For the classroom teacher position, I was interviewed by a district team that consisted of mainly special education administrators at the central office level. (The position was bilingual special education self-contained teacher.) However, my evaluations were always done by my direct supervisor. While working as a classroom teacher, this was the assistant principal who was in charge of special education. He observed in my class three times and we met both before and after the lesson that he observed (to discuss the lesson plan beforehand and to debrief and reflect upon his observations after he observed). I felt like it was a fair evaluation process and I always scored high on the rubric. This enabled me to enjoy later opportunities such as working as a member of the Lead Team (running professional development for peers at the school) and my coaching and specialist positions. In an indirect way, it led to my current opportunity and position (a teaching fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh where I am working on my doctorate). I felt that I was appropriately supported and rewarded for a job well… Read more »

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

I think part of the difficulty everyone is having here is conceptualizing the idea of “firing a teacher”. Think about it. Except for sort of perverse sexual activity, who has ever heard of a teacher being fired?
I wonder if fond memories of a “favorite teacher” are getting in way? You forget the ones that were out right bums, if you even understood that at the time. Perhaps you thought it was your own fault because the material seemed difficult.
For all of that, this is not an art show, I don’t see “peer review” having a place in it. The decision is not subjective, the teachers meet an agreed standard, or they do not. I would like to say that if we base it on student performance, there must be allowances. Can the performance of “inner city” kids, with basically no home life, be held to the same standards as suburban kids with supportive families? How about a teacher whose entire class views English as a “second language”?

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Erin,
Of course teachers should feel invested in “their classrooms.” The teachers are not the union, though, and I’m reacting to the union’s feeling of ownership (of classrooms, of jobs, etc.).

Erin go bragh
Erin go bragh
11 years ago

The teachers are not the union. Really Justin than who is the union and wasnt the quote from a teacher.

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