Teacher buy-in

Teacher evaluation and professional development won’t work without teacher buy-in, writes Wookie Kim, who blogs at ABCDE, in his analysis of Education Sector’s Finding the Link conference.  As a high school English teacher in Washington, D.C., Kim has seen the new IMPACT teacher evaluation system make a shaky start.

(1) On the teacher evaluation side, how do you get teachers to buy in to the idea of performance evaluation, especially if and when the system is so unfamiliar, filled with inherent risks, and tied to very high stakes?

. . . At my school, when the master educators enter the building, teachers go around alerting the entire building. Some teachers proceed as usual; others, however, pull out there one-off, let’s-follow-everything-on-the-IMPACT-rubric lesson plan. What I have seen is an “us versus them” (read: “teachers versus IMPACT”) mentality that defeats entirely the purpose of IMPACT. What should we do to increase buy-in here?

(2) On the professional development side, how do you get teachers who are already so busy—gah!—to carve out time for professional development, and to see PD as something more — much more! — than a mandatory requirement to earn a few professional learning units?

IMPACT’s master educators gave Kim “actionable next steps” to improve his teaching; they “followed up with me over email and provided invaluable resources in areas where I needed help.”

But many administrators aren’t prepared to evaluate teachers and many teachers feel there’s been little ongoing support.

I feel like I was given a torn set of instructions before being paradropped behind enemy lines where – in radio silence and without any updated directives – I’m tasked with assaulting the fortress of Effective Teaching.

Rated “effective” by IMPACT, Kim has been “excessed” and will have to find a new job at another school.

About Joanne


  1. Wookie is a man.

  2. This has been the case since I started teaching. Right now, the problem with PD is that it is solely district- and state-directed in focus. What teachers want and need will NOT be considered. So, I and other non-ELA teachers will waste time in “literacy in the curricula” BS workshops. We’ll get our little certificates, the presenter will be paid an unGodly amount of money for the time, and, in future “evaluations”, we’ll have to make sure that we have “literacy goals” on the board.

    Too many evaluations are just for show, checking off lists of things to look for, staying just long enough to satisfy the requirements, and, mostly, a matter of playing “gotcha”. The gotcha is ignoring all the good things about the lesson, and working to find the things that aren’t right (even making up those things if necessary – I speak from experience – 1 evaluated lesson was marked as missing written objective (on board, plainly visible), weak in technology (it was totally tech focused), and bad, due to 1 student sleeping (ignoring all the other students industriously working)).
    It’s night and day for evaluated teachers. Some teachers are hounded relentlessly, because harassing them is easier than firing them or not giving them a contract for the next year. Some do break down under the stress. I’ve seen it.
    Some teachers can curse at students, sleep in class, talk on their cell non-stop, even walk out and leave the students alone for extended periods – and get glowing evaluations. I’ve seen it.
    Why don’t the large school systems hire outside firms to evaluate? That way, they could eliminate the favoritism and game-playing. It would be fairer, and cheaper. And, it would be a good part-time job for retired teachers. My only requirement would be for secondary teachers to be evaluated by a secondary teacher in their discipline area. Too many times, the elementary teacher comes in, and can’t understand why I don’t have them creating shadow-boxes or role-playing the lab. You know, something creative.

  3. Outside evaluators would be expensive but worth it. We need to get out of the shell game where teachers resist being evaluated on student performance (and rightly so unless VERY carefully done) but also resist being evaluated by administrators from within their system because of favoritism (also sometimes rightly). That leaves external evaluators.

  4. I’m in favor of teacher evaluation, but it must be coupled with evaluation of principals and other administrators who control or at least influence the environment in which the teachers must perform.

    If I’m going to put my salespeople on a measurement plan, I’m not going to treat the sales *manager* as a salaried employee with tenure. He’s going to have performance goals, too, and he needs to meet them or go away. Same principle here.

  5. I like the idea of outside evaluators.

    But what really bothers me is how little the quality of the teacher’s lesson or whether or not the students learn is relevant to the evaluator.

    The principal is the “manager”. Give the principal the ability to hire and fire at will. However, make sure each teacher’s student test scores are part of their public record. That way, teachers can prove their competence separately.

  6. “master educators”? Now that’s funny.

    Do they have more midichlorians then ordinary educators? Is the force strong with them? Talk like Yoda?

    Maybe Star Wars references are kind of dated. Are Kung Fu movie references are more appropriate and hipper?

    Will Jet Li be playing the youngest master educator since the Han Dynasty in an epic struggle between good and evil praxis?

    It’s probably just as well that edu-crap doesn’t have any recognition outside education. The possibilities for parody are just too rich to ignore.

  7. Wookie Kim is a man, not a woman. “Her” should say “his”

  8. Thanks for the change– sorry for the two (now three) comments; I thought that my first one looked a little random without any kind of explanation!


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