Karen closes her plan book with a sigh. “This is so stupid!” Her formal observation is scheduled for the day after tomorrow, and she has the pre-observation conference in a few minutes. As she walks down the hall, she thinks about how she will talk about her lesson. She knows she won't mention that she picked this particular lesson because it fits nicely into the categories on the district's evaluation form (a stupid form, she thinks), but one on which she can look good. Also, it is a lesson she has done many times in the past, so there are unlikely to be any surprises with the students. So, although she is a little nervous, she is fairly certain she doesn't really have anything to worry about.
Anyway, what does her principal know? He was a high school science teacher before becoming an assistant principal at the middle school and then principal of the elementary school. He has never taught 4th graders, doesn't know how they think, what all the new curriculum initiatives are. Karen has some genuine challenges in her class: how to integrate the three students with limited English proficiency; how to teach the new “inquiry” math program; how to run a writers' workshop. But she won't try any of these in her evaluation lesson: What's the point? Something would be bound to go wrong, and who needs it? Anyway, the principal probably thinks that kids should be quiet and in their seats in a “good” lesson. The point of this evaluation exercise is just to get through it.
Charles is sitting in his office, waiting for Karen to arrive. He lets his eyes wander out of the window, and wishes he could just skip this whole evaluation process. It's so pointless—he and the teachers play out their assigned roles, and yet nothing really happens. And it takes so much time! He has 30 teachers to evaluate, and each one has to be observed twice during the year. When you add it up—60 observations and 120 conferences, plus the write-ups on top of it—he devotes about 135 hours a year to evaluation. And for what? To put a piece of paper in the personnel file in June!
What's more, he pretty much knows now what the pieces of paper will say; he could practically write them now. Everyone will receive a “satisfactory” rating in everything. He knows how the game is played; he was a teacher himself only a few years ago. Do the safe thing. Don't rock the boat. And even if he has serious concerns about a teacher, his hands are tied. The last time a teacher was dismissed for incompetence, it took four years and huge legal bills. The superintendent has made it clear that she does not have the stomach for much of that.