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Thursday, January 31, 2013

A teacher evaluation system that would work!

Teachers stomped their feet and yelled from the rooftops that the Florida legislatures attempt to legislate evaluations was between misguided and foolhardy but like most education subjects, the Florida Legislature ignored them. Now that the system is unraveling many in the Florida State Government are scratching their heads wondering why.

Here is the thing that most legislators can’t seem to fathom; teaching is more an art than a science. Is there a rubric for assessing Rembrandts or Picassos? Is there a complicated mathematical formula that you employ when you listen to music? No of course not but for some reason the Florida Legislature thinks we can employ those things and instantly know who is a good teacher and who should be brushing up their resumes.

To paraphrase Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, I may not always be able to describe good teaching but I definitely know it when I see it.

Senate president Don Geatz and others can’t fathom how teachers at supposedly poor performing schools can get effective or highly effective evaluations. Since the vast majority have never been in a classroom and they don’t listen to teachers they don’t understand that the best teacher in the world can’t control if their students have had enough to eat, if their parents are involved or not, if they are too worried about where their next meal is coming from or about violence in their neighborhoods to focus on school. The best teacher in the world can’t control if the policy makers have decided to eliminate those classes like art and music that make schools enjoyable to kids or if every kid is shoved into a one size fits all curriculum regardless of desire or ability or not or if social workers and guidance counselors are often the first to be let go during budget cuts. There are so many factors that teachers can’t control its not hard for those in the school system to understand that there are lots of great teachers at schools even where their kids do poorly on standardized tests.

If you want a great evaluation system the trick is to put great, impartial leaders in our schools, people who care both about their students and teachers and who are dedicated to improving both. We can no longer have principals and administrators in place because of whom they know, skin color or other reasons that have nothing to do with ability. Leaders inspire, they don’t threaten, cajole or intimidate. They also listen which is something the legislators in Tallahassee rarely do. We need people in place that take a holistic approach to both the child and teacher instead of just seeing numbers on a spread sheet and an opportunity for advancement. Bad leaders give bad evaluations and bad legislators give bad systems used to evaluate teachers.

The truth is there is no formula that will identify great teachers’ verses those who should be brushing up their resumes. Value added this, standardized tests that, it’s nonsense put in place by those that just don’t get it.


  1. You posted an excellent blog about the malfeasance at Mayport Middle School. If the school system is interested in finding the truth instead of protecting a principal, they will discover that at least one teacher's evaluation was rigged. Somehow, EOC exams do not show up because the administration failed to enter the right information to order the test materials. As a result, there may be teachers whose evaluations are skewed because of administrative failure, not their own alleged incompetence.

  2. Hey, Mr. G! I want to warn you about a new way for principals to terrorize their faculty. They bring in a 'secret shopper' who happens to be an administrator from another school to perform informal observations. The teachers are truly caught off guard and required to hear an administrator from another school trash their teaching. I hope that this does not become the norm...