Teacher: Georgia’s new evaluation system benefits teachers and students

Kirk Shook is in his eighth year teaching social studies at North Oconee, and is now teaching AP Macroeconomics and Honors American Government. Originally from Young Harris, he has a bachelor’s of science from the University of Georgia in social science education and a master’s in public administration.

He writes today in response to a recent AJC Get Schooled column by Etienne R. LeGrand raising concerns about whether Georgia’s new teacher evaluation system does enough to help teachers become better or simply labels them failures.

By Kirk Shook

061812downeyedThere’s a difference between expressing opinions, and making things up that simply aren’t true. Take Friday’s post in the state’s preeminent education blog, Get Schooled.

In it, an “education strategist,” Etienne LeGrand, begins by criticizing Georgia’s new teacher evaluation system as a passing fad, or “reform du jour” in her own words, and then calls it out for not giving teachers feedback and helping them improve.

She says,

“Given how essential quality teaching is to student achievement, you’d think the state’s evaluation system would also be used to provide meaningful feedback to teachers about their skills so they might improve and build on what was learned.  Questions of fairness and efficacy arise because it doesn’t.”

It doesn’t? Is she looking at the same teacher evaluation system as the rest of us?

As a teacher working in Oconee County Schools (where we first piloted CLASS Keys, Teacher Keys, and now TKES), I wholeheartedly agree that evaluations should be a tool for helping teachers refine their skills and get better and helping our students succeed.

That’s actually one of the main reasons I support the new system, because it does include feedback as a major component, and is far more efficient than the previous evaluation tools.

It’s not like this is a secret either. One of the stated goals of the Teacher Keys Effective System (TKES) is to “provide feedback to teachers.” In this quick guide to providing effective feedback, put out by the Georgia Department of Education in June, it underscores the importance of doing so, by stating explicitly that, “Providing effective feedback is critical.”

Another quick guide from our state DOE regarding “conferencing and feedback,” instructs evaluators that feedback must be free from interpretation, interference, and assumptions.

And in this Frequently Asked Questions document about TKES, feedback is mentioned six times.

As a classroom teacher, I have experienced the benefits of greater feedback from my principal, which has helped to improve my teaching, so I’m not sure how LeGrand can make a claim that the teacher evaluation system doesn’t aim to provide teachers with meaningful feedback.

Maybe it’s because she hasn’t been a classroom teacher under these various systems. Or, maybe she’s got an ulterior motive for trying to discredit a widely supported education reform. I couldn’t say.

What I do know is that an evaluation system like the one she describes actually does exist, and will benefit teachers and students in Georgia classrooms. Under previous evaluation systems (like the old GTOI), more than 95 percent of Georgia teachers earned a “satisfactory” rating every single year with no opportunity for real feedback except the broad terms of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

As much as I love and believe in public schools, we simply know that more than 95 percent of teachers probably are not “satisfactory,” and, even if they were, what benefit would that be for students if there is no effective feedback other than one checked box?

While this new tool may not be perfect, it is certainly a step in the right direction that will be beneficial for students, parents, teachers and administrators in our state.

 

Reader Comments 0

28 comments
Icaretoo
Icaretoo

We have a new Principal this year who has come in and turned everything upside down. She has initiated so many changes that it is impossible to keep up. I had the nerve to tell her it was too much, and now have a target on my back. In my recent observation I was marked at a Level II (Needs Improvements) for my lesson plans because I didn't write them in a certain format. I can see my teammates plans online, and they didn't either, yet they all received III's (Satisfactory). There is no way this evaluation instrument is objective.

Antagonist
Antagonist

@Icaretoo  That has been my recent experience. Don't dare offer any constructive criticism even though you have been in the system years longer than the new principal. You will wear the target.

GeraldineM
GeraldineM

FYI: Mr. Shook is also married to Governor Deal's niece. He has run for public office, receiving less than 2% of votes.

BearCasey
BearCasey

Observation evaluations should be done by highly trained subject-matter specialists from outside the school system in order to keep politics out of it.  Retired teachers such as myself would be excellent although I'm not looking for a job.  BTW-- it probably takes about 10 observations to get an accurate read and about as many debriefings. The cost has always been the reason that evaluations aren't done properly.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@BearCasey  Yes, outside profession observers would make a lot of sense - and so will never be implemented. The second part of teacher evaluation should be knowledge of the subject matter - and easy thing to verify through Praxis II or GACE scores.  Of course, if you set a decent minimum score, there would be no teachers in APS or DeKalb county (just joking, Folks, don't hang me in effigy).

Looking4truth
Looking4truth

Nine years ago, I was told by an assistant principal that if it were up to her, I wouldn't be invited back for my fourth year as a teacher.  Fortunately, that wasn't her call.  BTW, that was also the year that 100% of my students passed our subject CRCT, with 75% exceeding expectations.  Her statement was based on "not liking" how I taught my class. 

Any evaluation that is done by someone with a grudge or views a successful teacher as a threat to them is not someone who should be doing teacher evaluations.  On the other hand, administrators should not be evaluating their friends.  I'm all for constructive criticism from an impartial evaluator.  I don't mind being evaluated by combining test scores with impartial evaluations. Still, under the new system, there is still way too much room for subjective evaluation, based on teaching style regardless of success.   

popacorn
popacorn

@Looking4truth Nothing threatens an educator more than intelligence and creativity. They absolutely despise the unflattering contrast. 

oh Pleese
oh Pleese

Those of us who have been teaching for quite a while know that subjectivity is still, and will always be, the most

prevalent factor in deciding the fate of a teacher.  Even with TKES, principals will keep those teachers they like

and find a reason to get rid of those they don't.  

popacorn
popacorn

It all comes down to perception, people. Which means only one person possessing plenty 'o perfect perception is qualified to judge educators and their critics. Hear her roar!

Zzyzxman123
Zzyzxman123

Are you kidding me? You believe this evaluation system to be fair and balanced? What kind of Baloney are you feeding the public by your mythical article? Where are you getting your nonsense data from when you say you believe that 95% of teachers are not satisfactory? So lets use unproven data like students test scores to evaluate teachers that pour their heart and soul into the classroom of our children each and every day? And you think its ok to base 50% of a teacher's evaluation on ONE SINGLE TEST SCORE at the end of a school year? Let me tell you, these are exactly the moronic policies that we should be getting away from. Don't even feed me this crap that teachers had a say in the development of this evaluation system, because that is simply not true. You are the type of person that should not be in the classroom, nor should you be spreading your nonsense to the public. We teachers are all about positive and negative feedback to drive our instruction and how we deal with our kids. However, TKES has taken away valuable time that we would normally use for the betterment of our students. TKES is just a bloated bureaucratic evaluation system created by folks who for the most part have never been in the classroom, and have NO IDEA what we do every day. Please if you don't know the facts, stay quiet and post on another blog somewhere! 

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Aww, Mr. Shook -  didn't you get the memo? Effectively evaluating teachers is a practical impossibility.  They labor under onerous conditions, do the best they can, and all love children.


Shame on you for daring to hold teachers accountable.  Although, as MES below snidely notes, you may just have expressed the above opinions because you're, well, you know.  From the North Georgia mountains.  Count your blessings - she didn't come right out and CALL you an ignorant conservative hillbilly.  Just kinda implied it.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@AlreadySheared


Your opinions reflect your thoughts, not mine, "Already Sheared," and your opinions reflect the caliber of your thinking, not mine.  Mr. Shook is obviously not an ignorant person.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

@MaryElizabethSings

"I cannot help but recognize that this teacher grew up in the north Georgia hills and still works there.....conservative section of our state .... group norm of thinking there.... I don't blame him, however.  One must survive."


Your words, missy, not mine. AT LEAST have enough integrity to stand behind your ad hominem attacks.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@AlreadySheared 


My point was that Mr. Shook showed little courage in simply standing with the general opinion of his section of this state. I said that I understood his doing so because to do otherwise might cost him his job. (Remember the Scopes evolution trial in the 1920s in Tennessee?)  In a subtle way, I was also trying to encourage Mr. Shook, especially because he is a teacher, to explore his own mind and thinking with greater depth, aside from the thinking of those in his region.


My thinking was never that he was an "ignorant hillbilly," as you have so erroneously declared to be my thinking.


You should know that I do not value the thinking of anyone who refers to a female poster, as "missy."  Your thinking, as shown through your own comments, is gross without subtlety, imo, and your biases toward women are overtly on display for all to read.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Here is my suggestion for Kirk Shook - transfer down to the worst school in DeKalb County or APS and then get "evaluated" based on student scores or "progress" and see if you still like the evaluation system.  For those of you who don't know what type of school he teaches at, here is a synopsis:


According to the demographics from the Georgia Department of Education, approximately 87% are White, 4% Black, 4% Hispanic, 3% Asian, and 2% are mixed ethnicity. About 25% are enrolled in the gifted program and less than 1% are enrolled in remedial education.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@class80olddog It IS quite different teaching the cream of the crop vs. those at the bottom (in every possible academic way).


A system promoted the person who masterfully taught the choicest seniors AP Calc to be in charge of RTI.  The problems were, his certification was at hs level (these were much younger children) and his teaching experience had nothing in common with those trying to remediate these seriously behind little kids.  At one point (which changed weekly) he demanded that the Hispanic kids do math word problems in Spanish. Only problem was, these kids could not READ Spanish at all (never had been instructed in it) or English very well--hence the need for RTI and likely sped.

And the beat goes on...
And the beat goes on...

The feedback that is given, no matter how hard the observer tries to be objective, is still subjective.  This has been shown over and over in TKES training sessions where administrators watched videos of teachers and then completed the TKES evaluation.  The range of scores was almost comical.  Even attempts at establishing inter-rater reliability have been failures.  Good teaching is part science and part art, and when the observer knows little about the subject matter, all the pedagogy knowledge in the world is rather useless.  Such a waste of time and energy, but, most importantly, a waste of money.  

Antagonist
Antagonist

If you are fortunate enough to never have taught under an administration with a private agenda, perhaps this new system of teacher evaluation might work in a "perfect world." However, the Latin translation for Utopia is "nowhere." That is exactly where I think Mr. Shook's analysis of the new teacher evaluation might work - in a school in Utopia.

NikoleA
NikoleA

While I agree that 95% of teachers are not satisfactory, we have seen the exact opposite problem after last year's SLOs were given in my district.  Now, 90% of all elementary teachers would have been deemed ineffective based on the new system.  The numbers were better for those taking the CRCT, but still an extreme number of ineffectives.  

mgram2
mgram2

@NikoleA Those teachers who are not evaluated using CRCT results are at a disadvantage here (the other 70% of us evaluated using SLOs). It's sad that we will likely not be granted bonuses for our "effectiveness."

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

I don't see how the author can say that the new evaluation is widely supported. By whom? As a former teacher with many friends still in the profession I haven't met one who thinks this is appropriate or fair when even leading statisticians have come out to declare that VAM is statistically flawed and is nothing more than junk science.


MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I cannot help but recognize that this teacher grew up in the north Georgia hills and still works there.  If there is any section of the state in which the opinions of citizens cannot stand out too much from the crowd, it would be the north Georgia hill country, imo, having visited that beautiful section of our state for a half century. 


Government programs, including government public schools must be disparaged by those in that conservative section of our state because that is the group norm of thinking there.  It appears to me that Mr. Shook's opinions blend very well with the opinions of the parents of his students.  I don't blame him, however.  One must survive.

BearCasey
BearCasey

I'm retired and know very little about the new instrument.  I DO know that my pet peeve about evaluations back in the day was that they were usually done by people who knew NOTHING about my subjects. Arrghh!  I'm still annoyed by that.