Opt in to an Effective Supervision Process: New Legislation Shouldn't Keep Schools from Using Teacher Evaluations as a Powerful, Integral Part of the Culture, Making Teaching an Open, Public and Professional Practice
Bloom, Gary, Leadership
A recent change in education code presents an opportunity and a hazard to California schools and their students. Education Code section 44664 has been revised to read that "Evaluation and assessment of each certificated employee shall be made ... at least every five years for personnel with permanent status who have been employed at least 10 years with the school district, are highly qualified ... and whose previous evaluation rated the employee as meeting or exceeding standards.... the certificated employee or the evaluator may withdraw consent at any time." This means that teachers who were once required to be evaluated every two years may now move to a five-year cycle.
It is no secret that formal teacher evaluation processes generally do a poor job of supporting professional development and a poor job of quality control. In recent years, many California school districts have addressed this problem by redesigning their evaluation and professional development models, aligning them with the California Standards for the Teaching Profession.
These districts have invested energy training their principals to be skilled observers and teacher coaches. They have recognized the importance of teacher leadership at the site and district levels in improving teaching practice. They have built quality peer assistance and review programs that empower teachers and improve teacher effectiveness. They have negotiated alternatives to the traditional formal evaluation process for experienced and successful teachers. They have articulated expectations and made organizational shifts with the intent of significantly increasing the amount of time that principals and assistant principals spend in classrooms. They have taken steps to make teaching a public practice, establishing peer coaching and teacher data teams.
While we know of no districts that can claim to have fully achieved their visions for supervision in relation to the teaching profession, many have made significant progress.
Along comes a piece of legislation that makes it possible for a teacher to work for five years without participating in any formal evaluation process. Try this scenario on for size: In a large, urban high school with a culture of isolation, a veteran teacher is given a satisfactory evaluation by a harried new assistant principal who gets into the classroom twice during the year for pre-announced formal observations. That veteran (who consistently fails more than 30 percent of his algebra students in a school that is struggling to close a significant achievement gap) is put on the five-year plan, and is not asked to reflect upon his practice in any formal or public way for that five-year period. Nor does he receive feedback from the school's instructional leaders, who rarely appear in his classroom other than to pick up the occasional student referral.
Imagine allowing a staff member to work for five years without monitoring or feedback. We wouldn't do this with a student, a classified staff member or a superintendent. Most teachers and administrators wouldn't want to work for five years without some form of meaningful feedback.
Under 44664, "satisfactory" teachers who would take advantage of a quality supervision process might not receive any such support for five years. Those few experienced teachers who are "meeting standards" by some measures but who are not meeting their potential or meeting their students' needs and would prefer not having to deal with evaluation for five years could be granted their wish.
So here are the dangers: Schools and districts that have done an inadequate job of supervising and evaluating teachers will continue to do an inadequate job, only less often. Schools and districts taking steps to make the supervision process an integral part of their school cultures could be careless in implementing this option, and their good work in making teaching an open, public and professional practice will be set back by allowing key teachers to opt out of the game. …