Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good classroom observations aren't easy

Classroom observations can be a vital part of a good teacher evaluation,  but only if the people doing the observing have been well trained and tested to prove they know what they're doing.

That conclusion, from the latest Measures of Effective Teaching report, won't come as a shock to teachers,  who have long complained that too many administrators do rushed or biased observations.  Nor does it surprised Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leaders,  who are working with the researchers funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to figure out how good teaching can be measured.  Chief Academic Officer Ann Clark says principals have been watching videos of classroom lessons and scoring them to develop their skill as classroom observers.

Districts across the country are trying to figure out how to recognize, recruit and reward teachers who can make a difference with kids.  Efforts to gauge effectiveness with number-crunching  --  such as CMS'  rollout of value-added ratings last year  --  have hit resistance.  But as the latest report indicates,  it's not easy to watch teachers in action and rate them, either.

Judy Kidd,  president of the Charlotte-based Classroom Teachers Association,  raised that concern when CMS and the state of North Carolina rolled out new reports on ratings of teachers in all schools, based on a new state evaluation form.  She said she doesn't believe administrators are familiar enough with the new system to deliver solid ratings.

The CMS Talent Effectiveness Project and the state Department of Public Instruction are both moving toward evaluations that will incorporate good observations, value-added ratings based on test scores and other measures of effectiveness.  And the national researchers taking part in the MET study  (which includes CMS teachers who have volunteered to be interviewed and observed)  are trying to provide guidance.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

According to the NCAE there is no such thing as a bad teacher. They do not exist and there is no data you can collect to prove that one exists. Kinda like bigfoot.

Wiley Coyote said...

I started reading the MET report and fell asleep after the seventh slide.

I think it should be required reading for everyone outside of the education reservation. It's kinda like Vegas, everyone should go there once just to see the excess, as in the excess of minutia generated by educrats in the MET report.

The "Indicators of Cognitive Challenge" is where they lost me. How do people come up with this garbage?

Are teachers who teach at one of the 5 lowest performing elementary, middle or high schools supposed to expect this response 100% of the time? or Just when an observer is in the classroom?:

Distinguished

In addition to indicators in proficient column, students
initiate higher-order questions.

Ex: A student asks of other students, “Does anyone have another idea as to how we might figure this out?”


No wonder Little Johnny can't read.

Too much BS getting in the way of the teacher actually doing their job.

Baixiong said...

As long as education majors come from the bottom of the graduating pool, there will be problems with teacher effectiveness.

Finland:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wherewestand/reports/globalization/finland-whats-the-secret-to-its-success/206/

"In Finland, they say, teaching is considered one of the most highly esteemed professions – hardly a surprise, considering the fact that all of the country’s teachers must hold master’s degrees, and the profession is highly competitive."

"In Finland, teachers are allowed to choose their own textbooks and customize their lesson plans. They aren’t required to administer standardized tests, and assign little homework."

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In other words, hire good, competent people and you don't have to worry so much about how you evaluate them.

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http://hechingerreport.org/content/an-interview-with-henna-virkkunen-finlands-minister-of-education_5458/

"Virkkunen: Our educational society is based on trust and cooperation, so when we are doing some testing and evaluations, we don’t use it for controlling [teachers] but for development. We trust the teachers. "

Anonymous said...

Careful with that argument Baixiong. The "more pay" crowd will start billowing out of the woodwork like rats from a burning house!

Anonymous said...

Finlands demographics show 0 blacks. No one yelling about racism or unfair treatment. What a life ... sigh

Anonymous said...

Ann,

I would look into the fact that CMS holds it teachers to a different standard than other teachers around the state.

CMS uses the same teacher evaluation system as the rest of NC. However CMS purposely and erroneously interprets the evalauation instrument differently than other NC school districts.

All public school teachers in the state are evaluated in a wide variety of areas as either "Not Demonstrated," "Developing," "Proficient," "Accomplished," or "Distinguished." The behaviors that fall under each rating are quite clear. However, CMS trains its administrators (evaluators) to ignore the specific behaviors listed in the teacher evaluation manual. Instead, teachers are held to a different standard. This was told to me by my principal and by a numerous assistant principals at my school. It was communicated at numerous faculty meetings as well.

Teachers who do an amazing job in their classroom in a specific area can be marked no higher than "proficient," essentially just a 3 out of 5 possible designations. To earn "accomplished," in a specific area, the teacher has to have an impact on the school at large (outside of her classroom). To earn a 5 out of 5 "distinguished," a teacher must have an impact on the entire district. That means your son or daughter could have an incredibly talented and dedicated teacher in the classroom (but not outside the classroom) and that teacher can only earn a 3 out of 5. I don't know about you, but as a parent, I want my kid in that teacher's class. I don't care that my kid's teacher writes curriculum or mentors another teacher, I just care about the job she does teaching my kid and the other students in the room. If a good classroom teacher is an important factor in whether (and it is) a child learns, shouldn't a great classroom teacher be able to earn a rating higher than 3 out of 5?

I don't mind being held to a higher standard, but only if every other teacher in the state is too. This is why such a small percentage of teachers in CMS are rated "Accomplished" or "Distinguished." Compare CMS teachers to Wake County's teachers. The percentage of "Accomplished" teachers in Wake county is approximately 40+%. The percentage of "Distinguished" teachers in Wake County is approximately 11%. Those same numbers in CMS are about 30% and 2%respectively.

This erroneous method of evaluating teachers discriminates against CMS instructors and makes them a less desireable hire should they attempt to move to another NC district. I believe this causes irreparable harm to CMS teachers and lowers their morale.

Ann, could you follow up on this issue please?

Wiley Coyote said...

Comparing Finland to the US is like comparing Kim Kardashian to Paris Hilton...

...wait, that won't work.

Apples to oranges...

That's better.

Anonymous said...

I will add one piece to 4:02. CMS/community organizers/ Harlem Achievement Zone want to evaluate teachers based on sprinting 26.2 miles instead of running a marathon. Harlem Achievement Zone has very high teacher burnout rates.

And quickly you see too that a new good teacher will last only 2 to 3 years in CMS, whatever it takes to settle up with the state if they got any teacher scholarship and then they get grapped up by private schools.

Anonymous said...

..This erroneous method of evaluating teachers discriminates against CMS instructors and makes them a less desireable hire should they attempt to move to another NC district. I believe this causes irreparable harm to CMS teachers and lowers their morale...

Sounds like a teacher retention strategy when you specifically target the better teachers.

Anonymous said...

Can we please stop assuming that all teachers in CMS suck just because they are in CMS? It is so offensive to those of us who choose to stay in the system because we are damn good teachers and we hope we can make a difference in the lives of the children in this community-no matter the color, address, religion, gender, whatever. I graduated with a 3.7 in high school, 3.8 in college, and a 4.0 in graduate school. I don't consider that the bottom in the graduating pool.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 6:21...

If I were in your shoes, I would direct that anger towards the BOE, your bosses downtown and the uppity philanthropists who all of a sudden can "buy" quality teachers in 8 CMS schools with $55 million dollars...

Based on what they have said, teachers who are currently teaching or taught in those schools in the past, just aren't good enough.

The $55 million, five-year plan for eight westside schools includes new efforts to put top-notch teachers in every classroom, summer programs and year-round school to keep kids from losing academic ground during breaks, technology for students and homes, and charter-like flexibility for all public schools.

Anonymous said...

Measures of Effective Teacher report and the Talent Effectiveness Project and measured by the data provided by Muri, Cobitz and Baxter. Cant wait till they start rolling out this dufus cohort again to not be able to answer any of the teachers questions.

Very very sad at the burnout of effective teachers in CMS and many effective administrators.

Wiley Coyote said...

The board voted 8-1 for a new contract that gives attorney George Battle III a 10 percent raise. Rhonda Lennon voted no because teachers have not gotten raises in three years. Other members said Battle has proven himself to be worth more than the $152,000 a year they hired him at.

Rhonda. Such a hypocrite. You voted in the majority to delay the Bright Beginnings vote when Gorman wanted to cut it, which would have saved the County over $10 million.

Board member Rhonda Lennon said she wants to support Bright Beginnings, but "I just can't continue to cut K-12 education to do it."

So what did you do? (the BOE except McGarry) You shirked your duty by voting to delay the vote to keep or cut it, thus handing it off to the county.

Now CMS wants $30 million for teacher raises and another million for "dropout prevention"? Do you think money grows on trees? CMS obviously thinks it does.

That $10 million per year going into the Bright Beginnings black hole would go a long way to help fund those teacher salaries you're so concerned about.

Anonymous said...

Who let Lennon talk all of a sudden? Muri has not idea what he is doing as he still is waiting for Pete to call. If we dont take care of our teachers that will lead to no teacher effectiveness the name of the new program ! I also could care less what Bill?Melinda Gates think as well.

Anonymous said...

I watched part of the meeting but had to give up. I turned it on and all I see are black women at the head table. Something rubbed me wrong there. Kinda like the bad feeling I got when Welhiema and Arthur stepped up to "this" BOE to lend their assistance. The next thing I saw what the Hugh report. Sad thing was the dismissive manner the suicide of the NWSA principal was (not) addressed. Is CMS going to have a legal liability with this? Time will tell. I hope they do.

Secondly, the discussion over the George Battle III contract came up. While Mr. Battle may be a fine person, the BOE has errored in hiring on someone with that much community baggage. But if you step back and look at associations with community black people, you see quickly a trend to latch on every family member, church member friend, sorority sister, etc. and escort them up to the government feeding trough. Looking more and more like Detroit, DC, Cleveland, etc.

Anonymous said...

NO DATA!
NO PEACE!

Anonymous said...

What if the reason that teachers can get no more than "proficient" is because the Pete Gorman compensation plan tied compensation to these ratings, and if you are rating your best teachers at only "proficient" - or a 3 on a 5 point scale - then you are able to suppress teacher salaries. Now the friends or family friends of the principals would get higher ratings and more money and the top classes to solidify the select few in their spots as the "best" teachers.
Or perhaps you'd have principals instructed to fill out observations based ONLY on that single lesson - and yes, that is how it happens. If you have ever seen the evaluation form you would quickly come to understand that it is impossible to hit on every possible aspect of teaching in one single lesson. Some lessons don't lend themselves to using technology, or the technology is not available in the classroom....for example, a teacher may be doing a lesson on chemical reactions where students will be combining two or more items to observe and measure the resulting reactions. Things like this, in a lesson, don't have the same impact if not experienced first hand. However, the next day the teacher may use some online DiscoveryEd videos to show students reactions that happen with chemicals that are not safe to be used in the classroom environment. Because the teacher didn't use technology on the day they were observed (even though they use technology regularly) they would get marked down on their observation.

That system is patently wrong.

But, when the people running a school district have no knowledge about education, what do you expect?

Jennifer Davies said...

There is a lot that needs to be worked on with the system, but classroom observations are extremely useful. The main thing is to make sure those observing are highly trained, as the post says. That way the observations can be used as a collaborative tool for teachers and administration. | http://www.observe4success.com