Evaluation song and dance

Teacher evaluation is a “song and dance” that rarely reflects reality, writes Mr. AB. The teacher, knowing when the evaluation is scheduled, prepares a detailed lesson plan that would take far too much time to do every day for every class. On evaluation day, the teacher delivers a carefully selected lesson.

. . . we are able to assure that we will be teaching our best possible lesson and be at our most obscenely over-prepared, well-stocked with carefully differentiated materials, painstakingly made hands-on activities, key cross-disciplinary connections, and deeply meaningful realia, — all the trappings of a great teacher, all impossible for the new teacher to have on hand with the daily frequency we wish we could.

Teachers know what the evaluator wants and provide it, whether it’s what the students need or not.

There is no real assessment of our daily, meaningful implementation of best practices. There is no evaluation of what is actually experienced by our students.

Mr. AB suggests requiring teachers to submit their weekly plans — the real ones they use for teaching.

We need to establish expectations that should be visible in any meaningful lesson. Informed by our actual lesson plans, our evaluator comes in at two or three appropriate times, unannounced, over the course of a week and stays for an hour, assessing our success in meeting those expectations.

. . . Teachers don’t need to be evaluated on what they can do, given unlimited prep time and warned well in advance, they need to be evaluated on what they actually do, every day.

That leads to another issue: Can most evaluators recognize good teaching and provide useful feedback to teachers who need guidance? Who shall evaluate the evaluators?

About Joanne


  1. The “song and dance” meme is certainly correct. When my wife was a teacher, she knew her supervisor put great stock in writing the “lesson objectives” on the board for the students to see at the beginning of the lesson. Therefore, whenever the evaluator was present, she wrote the objectives there, even though she considered it a big waste of time.

    More important, though, is the implication that there’s only one right way to teach, a series of steps to perfection. Anybody can be a great teacher if they just follow the steps on the checklist. We all know that’s bogus. Not only do different teachers have different styles, but one of the hallmarks of a good teacher is the ability to adapt to students’ needs as they come up in class, even if that means diverging from the lesson plan. Evaluating teachers by observation is guaranteed to be ineffective, regardless of who the evaluators are. We have to evaluate via results.

  2. tabitharuth says:

    I remember my first evaluation. The principal warned us that he couldn’t “check it off” if he didn’t see it and suggested that we open the blinds to glare so we could adjust them in his presence, thereby “adapting the student’s environment for better learning.”

    We both knew it was a joke.

    I a adjusted the blinds and he wrote it down. The kids just wondered why I’d opened blinded them in the first place. . .

  3. We don’t announce observations. We just drop in.

  4. wahoofive: That evaluation technique beautifully encapsulates what’s wrong with the practice and supervision of education: a whole lot of time spent checking inputs, and no concern with the outputs (what the kids learned).

  5. The vice principal who evaluates me is a former math teacher, so he knows what a good math lesson looks like. There are some things he does that I find valuable:

    1. First thing, he makes a “map” of the class identifying each student as male or female. he looks for all boys in the front, or all boys in the back, something like that. He could probably ask for a seating chart in advance, but it doesn’t seem to take him long.

    2. He does a timeline of what happens in class, so that during our “debriefing” I can see how much time I spent on bell activities, going over previous homework, answering questions, lecturing, monitoring student activities, etc.

    3. He marks on his seating chart map the locations of the students on which I call on. It was very clear after a couple evaluations that for whatever reason, I don’t call on students in the two rows directly in front of me! I’ve since started drawing student seat numbers out of a bucket so that the students I call on are random.

    There are other things. He knows I know the math, and he knows I know how to teach it. What he’s doing during his evaluations is looking for ways to improve my “efficiency” and my contact with students. Actually, I value his input.

  6. The truth is, if you do something with the students you never do with them on a regular basis, the kids know it and they’ll show it.

    When I’ve been observed, my good supervisors have always told me to do what I do from day-to-day. I can’t say I haven’t proof read my lesson plans for typos a little more carefully, but, the I also realize that the purpose of an evaluation is (or should be) to get feed back on the things I am doing and do get constructive feedback on what I can do better.

    They’re not out to fire me. That would make more work for them. They’re there to help make me a better educator.

    That being said, I know there are administrators who see it the other way. I left a job because of that.

  7. You want a pointless visit to a Potempkin village? Schedule the visit well in advance. You want to know what really goes on? Drop in from time to time.

  8. Prof210: Agreed, but as Benjamin implied, if you stick to the Potemkin village tour, you won’t see problems that you have to work to correct.