Distraction: Evaluation Song and Dance

“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.”

You won’t find many teachers earnestly blogging hosannahs about the evaluation process but Mr. AB doles out a great solution — amenable to both sides of the administrative divide — along with the requisite criticism. [via Jacobs]

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Good link, Dan. I’ve been on about this for quite some time. There’s someone in my room evaluating my teaching for 1 hour every 2 years. And that’s only an evaluation on pedagogy, not subject area content. Teachers in my district are never evaluated on that merit. Not only that, but often times we’re evaluated by someone who hasn’t been inside a classroom for decades. This is no way to assure high-quality instruction; it’s really just a hoop to jump through.

    I have someone from a professional development group we’re working with in my room once a month or so. I’ve always tried really hard not to plan anything special for a day I’m observed. There are other districts where the administration gives teachers a 2-week window for when they will be observed instead of planning the specific day. Any teacher can make it look good for one day. It’s sustaining that quality that’s the real challenge.

  2. I’m just so tired, man. Just exhausted. I bailed early on a friend’s birthday party yesterday to format the next day’s Keynote presentations.

    I agonize over every decision — how long to withhold this conclusion, when to ask that question, how to structure classwork so everyone’s challenged and working straight through, irrespective of ability. After the content is set, I question and re-question the graphic design of the slides.

    After these planning sprints and after each lesson is taught, I flop back into bed or crash into my desk chair content that my individual lesson plans are as damn near perfect as anything I’ll ever create.

    When I say I’m exhausted it isn’t for lack of student or administrative appreciation. This isn’t that.

    I’m exhausted because no matter how seriously I take my game, I’m rewarded financially exactly the same as the hack next door who phones it in and gives extra credit to students for baking him food.

    I’m exhausted because my students walked me through their classwork schedule yesterday and confirmed my long-held suspicion that my not-at-all-unreasonable standards are waaaaay higher than any bar my colleagues have set for them. It drives me nuts I can’t teach all their classes.

    So. After all the commentary you’ve put in around here, Todd, I owe you a little more honesty than I’ve given. I’ve got such zest for tests because it’s approaching desperation how bad I want these lousy lousy lousy teachers unmasked, exposed, and dismissed.

    I mean, a teacher who takes his craft as serious as you — hell, any teacher who blogs about teaching — has got to share that frustration.

    Good solutions from your post. If in a year I’m still sitting here cranking out the best work of my life, still content just to whine about the inequity in teacher quality, I’ll then be pissed with myself. Let’s do something here.

  3. I’m with you on the agonization. Content and design, too. I write very few things down, that’s just the way I’m wired, but I plan and replan and replan all the time. And after I’ve delivered the plan, I think about whether or not that was the right plan to give at that time and ways I can redeem myself with a new plan tomorrow.

    Yeah, that’s the piece I (heart) about the *possibility* of testing, getting rid of bad teachers (another post of mine, but I’ll spare you the link). I see where you’re coming from and we firmly agree on that idea.

    2 years ago, I witnessed a horrible, awful teacher go through a process where he knew every single time the administrator would come in to observe him. This was supposed to be the process through which he would be sacked. He stepped it up those days — even wore a tie and slacks, where he wore sweatshirts and scrubby jeans otherwise — and actually attempted to teach. He provided lesson plans and handouts. He still sucked and his kids still hated him, but at least he gave appearances that he was doing the job, the whole time simply playing the system like he had been for the previous 25 years, not giving the administrator any ammo to fire him. In the end, the district offered him something like $35k to retire early. He took it.

    Teachers who just press “Play” are paid every bit as much as you and I are (my students just observed that this past Wednesday was the first day I even turned on the TV in class). More, in fact, because those types of teachers tend to be tenure jockeys who have been working for the school much longer than you or I have.

    Even worse, your “reward” for being such a strong teacher is that you’ll often get the kids who beg to transfer out of the bad teachers’ classes. Last year, I had classes of 33 kids, that’s the max allowed in English here, while one of the other teachers had classes of 22 or 24. My classes were packed and hers were emptying as fast as they could. So I had more papers, more students, more work than the teacher who should have been fired long ago. And I got all that just because I take my job seriously.

    Sometimes, I want to just exist in my classroom and not look around me at all. I can control what happens here and try to make things better. But when I look up and see that I’m pissing in the ocean, that’s a terrible feeling.

    P.S. Dan, you should post those presentations that you agonize over. You might save another teacher that same agony by making your stuff available. I’ve been thinking of doing the same thing.

  4. I’ve been trying to figure a delivery method for my lesson slides. PDF? The slide files? I use Keynote. The world uses PowerPoint. I’ll check but if the conversion process is as hit-and-miss as I’ve heard, I’m keeping them in Keynote.

    Per the rest of our conversation, am I correct in assuming that any change in evaluation procedures would have to go through collective bargaining and most likely get blocked by our union?

  5. Hell yes you’re correct.

    Blocked by our union (which works hard to give us good benefits, so I only knock ’em so much, but defending mediocrity or worse is one of the biggest arguments against a union), blocked by most of our fellow teachers (who attempts to stop change more than those in education?), blocked by administrators if they can (evaluations are the bane of most administrators’ existence – because the administrators already know who’s good and who’s bad, but they can’t do anything about it), probably blocked by board members, blocked by just about anyone else in the loop. It’s a very small minority who even wants to think of this as a way to improve teacher quality.

    As for your slides, why not just put them there and let other people deal with how to use them? Let the PDFs accompany. Use Keynote to convert them to PPT, but warn folks that it might not be as good as in Keynote. Simply having a template makes the whole process much easier because from there it’s tweaking, not starting from scratch.

  6. Thanks for mentioning that the union has done a lot to keep my health insurance premiums low and my prep time high.

    ‘Cause I was driving out of the staff parking lot this afternoon thinking a lot of unkind thoughts …