Do school principals have what it takes to grade teachers?

Legislation winding through the Georgia Gold Dome is addressing a complaint that teachers have been yelling from the rooftops: enough with the tests already!

Many criticize an evaluation system where student test results count for at least 50 percent of each job review, blaming it for turnover in their ranks. But lawmakers who are weighing the alternative — subjective evaluations by principals and other school leaders — note a big obstacle to change: those principals may not be up to the task.

Feb. 26, 2016 - Atlanta - Senator Lindsey Tippins presents SB 364. The Senate voted today to rollback the use of metrics to judge teacher performance. Under current law, at least half of each teacher's evaluation must be based on the their students' performance on state-mandated tests. Senate Bill 364 reduces "growth" results on tests to 30 percent of a teacher's job review. It also reduces the number of tests. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Feb. 26, 2016 – Atlanta – Sen. Lindsey Tippins presents Senate Bill 364 to the Senate, which approved it unanimously. The legislation reduces the weight of student test results in teacher evaluations, which may give principals more of a say. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

“We need to spend a little more time making sure we have leadership folks properly trained to do those evaluations before they’re really going to accomplish what we expect for them to do,” Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta, said at a recent hearing. He and Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, have written bills that would reduce student test results from at least half a teacher’s evaluation to less than a third. Dickson said neither of them had addressed the issue of unprepared principals in their legislation.

You can read more about the issue in this myAJC article.

Dickson has a point: principals aren’t doing well under the current “Leader Keys Effectiveness System,” or LKES. Data from a pilot program had nearly half of them rating “needs development” or worse last year. Two percent were “exemplary” compared with nearly a fifth of teachers.

Of course, the perception of poor leadership is itself influenced by tests. School leader evaluations are driven more by student test performance than are teacher evaluations, with 70 percent resulting from the test results. That, too, would change under the proposed legislation.

August BoE presentation by Susan Andrews for 26 RT3 districts in 2015

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23 comments
readcritic
readcritic

Unfortunately, too many principals have their own agendas and any teachers not fitting the preconceived mold are dispensible. The current evaluation system gives too much power to principals allowing them to record anything they please. Teachers have no recourse and the TEKS evaluation is often slanted to make an individual teacher the greatest or worst educator to head a classroom. There is no fair and equitable ranking. Some teachers have huge classes of low-level students with major discipline issues who cannot and/or will not perform while others have small groups of high-achievers who are self-starters and care about their learning. There is no way to compare teachers based on classroom performance and grades. There are just too many variables.

jerryeads
jerryeads

Nice piece in today's print, Maureen. Thanks. 

I would guess that "Leaks" has as many if not more validity and reliability issues as "Teaks," but that said, my own data from now almost ten years ago as well as others' pretty starkly suggests that our much bigger problem in schools is their leadership. Better leadership, better teaching. Just as most teachers are wonderful, most school leaders are competent and stupendously hard-working folk. BUT - too many are not.

That said, I'm pretty sure we shouldn't be leaning on principals anyway for teacher evaluation. If they're good at running schools, they haven't taught in years and even decades. Would you have someone who hasn't flown an airplane in decades evaluate the pilot in the left seat of your airliner? Why would we even think of doing that? Likewise, principals, like everyone else in the profession, was trained in a specialty. Why do we expect someone who taught social studies twenty years ago to be adept at judging the acumen of a chemistry teacher? Would you want someone who flies a Cessna 310 - even if they're excellent at it - evaluating the pilot of the 747 you're sitting in?

The problem, of course, is that setting up something like a master teacher evaluator corps would take time and money - neither of which the faux reformers of today would consider. Do it now, do it cheap. Make sure whatever it is doesn't work so we can run the con game again to get re-elected the next cycle. That's worked for minimum competency testing for nigh on fifty years and people are just now starting to catch on - no one ever seemed to notice that no matter how much we failed kids with arbitrary and capricious low-bid state tests, the national tests and international comparisons never changed. Hm. 

jamhunter
jamhunter

What is the problem with most teachers receiving good evaluations? Is there any reliable data that supports the hypothesis that they are not? Why do state representatives assume that most teachers are not performing at a high level? Is the point here that these representatives can find and hire 20,000 teacher that will be more effective? Don't they realize that they are just creating incentives for good teachers to leave the neediest schools... and/or the leave the field completely?


Another comment
Another comment

My sister has twin boys who, although fraternal were always very similar. They were in a small school with only two classes each grade. She could clearly see each year which teacher was the better teacher. It seemed like year one twin had the better teacher and the next year the other boy did. So luckily it ended up averaging out. They ended up going to the same college, same major and were roommates. My cousin's husband got them a job at his company. He said his boss was at first Leary hiring twins, but they are two of his best employees. One is now a supervisor of the other put it works.

My sister was able to request the best teacher every year, for her younger non twin children.

So maybe parent of multiples in each grades should be called into a focus group. They could give a unique view.

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

Maureen, 


Once more with feeling!  Interview a few private employee comp consultants or if, you can't stand the thought of private industry, interview a few professors who teach appraisal in the business schools. Or convene a round table of appraisal and comp profs.


Unless you believe that education exists on a parallel planet and that only that educators ought to be able to comment..

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Principals HAVE to evaluate their teachers, whether they are up to the task or not.

Except at, perhaps, a public school where all teachers are immaculate saints, I can think of no better way to create a deeply dysfunctional and ineffective workplace than to decide that bosses/supervisors cannot evaluate the people who report to them. 

Legong
Legong

Teachers' unions and their media allies actually speak for very few educators in Georgia.

And stubborn opposition to accountability and choice has more than met its match in parents upset with failing schools.

This blog's almost daily parade of articles hoping otherwise won't change parents' determination to finally force real solutions.

dg417s
dg417s

@Legong That's sad. Union and unity are speaking in one voice - if teachers choose not to speak in one voice, then they get reform done to them rather than with them (and the latter option is the more effective option). It's hard to listen to thousands of individuals saying their own thing, but easy to listen to and work with thousands of voices speaking in unity for what is best for Georgia's children. I don't know why you oppose this.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Legong You need psychological help. Were you physically abused in a school? Seek help soon, its not healthy to have this much anger towards one group or profession. 

redweather
redweather

Here's an idea.  Why not give teachers close to retirement an opportunity to spend their last year or two doing the evaluations that many principals may not have the time or experience to do. These teachers would need to have a proven record of classroom effectiveness, however.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather 

That is a great idea...in the abstract. I can tell you from personal experience (and observation) however that the teacher's psychology in the last year or two before retirement is like that of a horse looking at a sunny pasture from behind a fence.

redweather
redweather

@OriginalProf @redweather You may be right. I guess it's unrealistic of me to think teachers might want to do something "for the team" that could improve the evaluation process. Perhaps all the complaining regularly done around here really is "sound and fury signifying nothing."

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather @OriginalProf 

Seriously, your suggestion would call for longtime teachers a year away from retirement to spend that last year doing principals' evaluations of all the other teachers.  This, on top of teaching their own classes and doing all the requisite retirement-pension paperwork that takes much time on its own. Not to mention getting Social Security going and arranging for the coming health insurance changes. 


If the graduating seniors have "senior fever," so do their retiring professors....



dg417s
dg417s

@redweather There are districts around the country that do something like this - they aren't teachers close to the end, but teachers that have shown that they are effective in the classroom. They enter a 3-year contract to assist with new teachers and teachers who are struggling. The teachers must agree to reenter the classroom after their 3 year term as a mentor teacher and not go into administration in order to qualify. It has really been effective in the places that allow this system to be in place rather than administrators and "reformers" forcing education policy on teachers.

redweather
redweather

@OriginalProf @redweather No. No. No. My idea is that they would spend their last year or two evaluating other teachers. Period. Their job title wouldn't change, only their responsibilities.  

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather @OriginalProf 

Sorry to say that what I was describing above is the pre-retirement busywork that all retiring teachers have to do for themselves, in addition to teaching. Not a new job-title. You'll see.

Mack68
Mack68

I feel for principals these days. Years of budget cuts have led to a reduction in critical administrative and instructional support in the school house. For instance, in APS, only schools that receive significant Title I funds have Instructional Coaches. 

Very large elementary schools here are only allotted one assistant principal. A school with 600+ students has about 30 core teachers. To observe each of those teachers 6 times per year (as currently prescribed) is 180 classroom observations. How is one principal and one AP supposed to accomplish that in any meaningful way while still performing all their other responsibilities?

I agree with Christie_S that principals should be seasoned teachers.

We will not see a higher caliber of principals across the board in all schools until districts give them the support they need.

Christie_S
Christie_S

Hmm, perhaps one way to ensure an administrator is capable of effectively evaluating teachers is to require administrators to have a minimum of seven years experience in the classroom. Up to the fifth year, teachers are really still learning how to do everything they need to know to be competent at their jobs. The next few years are spent in polishing those skills.

If you, yourself, have not spent the time working with the dynamics of classrooms, why would anyone believe you have the expertise necessary to evaluate the skill and effectiveness of a teacher?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Christie_S In the Dark Ages when I was finishing undergrad, those who wanted to go into administration had to have 5 or more years successful teaching BEFORE BEING ACCEPTED INTO A PROGRAM LEADING TO  ADMINISTRATIVE CERTIFICATION.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I was very fortunate.  I only taught under 2 principals in all those years who could NOT have judged my work adequately (although they both gave me high marks on the end of the year evaluations, and I never heard anything bad from them.)  The other 6 knew their stuff, as they had been exemplary teachers themselves for a long time.  I would have taken any negative feedback from them VERY seriously.  I also went into the end of the year evaluations with things I wanted to discuss about the operation of the school. Makes it surprising that I got good reviews, I guess. Haha.


However, not everyone is so fortunate.   It seems like nowadays there are quite a few principals who were either "kicked upward" or had quite minimal experience, or became principals because of who they were.  That should not happen.