Principals need to evaluate honestly

Principals need to get serious about evaluating teachers, writes Justin Baeder in On Performance.  Many principals rate all teachers as satisfactory, convinced that it doesn’t matter:  Teachers can’t be fired for teaching poorly.  Insteady, principals try make undesired teachers so miserable they’ll want to quit.

Baeder cites an op-ed by Colin Hitt of the Illinois Public Policy Institute, who quotes Dr. Timothy Knowles of the University of Chicago:

In interviews with 40 principals, 37 admitted to using some type of harassing supervision—cajoling, pressuring or threatening—to get teachers to leave in order to circumvent the byzantine removal process mandated by the union contract… This pathological status quo feeds upon itself: The more difficult it is for principals to address underperformance, the more likely they are to use informal methods to do so. This fuels labor’s argument that management is capricious, strengthening their case for increased employment protection.

Principals must break this cycle “by conducting meaningful evaluations, even if it takes a few years for policymakers to create a stronger link between evaluations and dismissal,” writes Baeder.

 If Chicago Public Schools principals turned in five hundred or a thousand unsatisfactory ratings next year instead of just a handful, what kind of attention would that garner? Imagine if lawmakers could see the litigation costs districts face in dismissal proceedings—would they not immediately intervene? Right now, though, all they see is a giant stack of “satisfactory” ratings, with no way to tell which teachers deserve them and which don’t.

Teacher evaluation reforms are being designed to work around principals by using value-added analyses of test scores rather than relying on principals’  judgment, Baeder warns. Principals need to start doing their jobs as teacher evaluators or they’ll be out of the job.

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  1. I saw this first hand my first year teaching. The principal wanted a teacher to retire early and when he didn’t, he made sure he had the worst schedule and bad conference period. They gave him all lower levels courses that he hated. Everyone knew what they were doing to him. I left before I saw what happened to him though.

  2. Principals need to be evaluated using the same criteria teachers are evaluated on. It makes no sense to establish rigorous performance standards for teachers while continuing to pay administrators just to show up.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    That’s fascinating… I was under the (mistaken) impression that principals didn’t actually engage in review processes other than for tenure.

    Learn something new every day.

    On the other hand, I suppose my ignorance is evidence that their review processes are generally so pro forma that the article has a point.

  4. Teacher bashing is, in part, the outcome of this feature of our K-12 educational system. I don’t think that most people really believe that the typical teacher is a bad teacher, but they do believe that there are lots of teachers who are kept on because of the difficulty of firing them. And they blame the profession as a whole for resisting any attempt at self-policing or policing by outside entities. Ironically, if teachers weren’t so insulated by this cloud of obfuscation, there wouldn’t be the push to evaluate them based on test score improvement (which is not an entirely irrelevant metric, but one that should be used only in the most c autious and long-range way).

  5. Principals should not be involved in evaluation, but should be involved in staffing. That is, if it were up to me, the district–or better yet, outside agencies set up for this purpose–would evaluate teachers on their management, curriculum, etc. The teacher would submit designed curriculum, lesson plans, and then be evaluated in the classroom several times.

    In addition to that, the teacher’s test results should be part of the picture. Where did his or her students start? Where did they finish?

    Then the principal can staff as he or she sees fit, but the teachers’ evaluations and test results would be part of the public record and part of the principal’s evaluation. Getting rid of teachers who evaluators say do an excellent job, or who have great test scores? Why?

    That way, a teacher could be fired, even if it’s just a principal’s arbitrary whim, but not be damaged career-wise unless she really is a bad teacher.

  6. Mike Miles.
    Harrison District 2, Colorado Springs.
    He’s got teacher (and principal!) evaluations dialed in.

  7. In a county-wide system with various racial/ethnic groups, there will be/already is political pressure to make sure that the top/bottom evals are equally distributed acrosss racial/ethnic groups. In actual fact, it may be that the largest number of the best teachers are in the best schools; or the best schools may simply reflect the best students or the best teachers may be graduates of better high schools and colleges. The same goes for the weakest teachers, but politically, it’s not likely to matter.