After one year at an elementary turnaround school in Chicago, the young, inexperienced principal told Marilyn Rhames she was one his best teachers who could improve only by being easier on herself. After the second year, he fired her. She writes about the experience in A Tale of Two Teacher Evaluations on her Ed Week blog, Charting My Own Course.
One-third of the staff left –fired or quit — after the first year. The principal and his two assistant principals lowered class size to 14 in second grade and raised it to 33 in third, Rhames’ grade.
A dozen of my students came in reading at or below the 1st grade level. I had six students with major behavior problems. One student threatened to kill himself and was briefly committed to a psychiatric ward. So when my reading assessments weren’t completed on time and the principal argued that 2nd grades’ assessments were in, I told him to do the math. Twice the number of students, twice the time needed. He did not appreciate my new-found frankness.
. . . When my principal came to observe my guided reading lesson, he criticized me for not using a whiteboard the way the expensive literacy consultants showed us to do in a PD.
In early March, the principal said her work was “unacceptable” and she would not be invited back. Another third of the staff left that year.
Within four years of the school’s opening, the principal and his “two wives” were gone. (One became his real wife after both divorced their spouses.)
Rhames almost quit teaching because of her experience, but is “now happily working at my charter school where teacher evaluations are fair, substantive, and self-reflective.”