Friday was a professional development day in my district and a good chunk of the day was spent learning about changes in the district's teacher evaluation tool in response to new state laws and learning about student learning objectives. Student learning objectives are also in response to new state laws here in Ohio. The combination of our teacher performance rubric and the outcome of student performances with learning objectives will provide an overall rating of my teaching yearly. Here in Ohio it is currently a fifty/fifty split. There are not bonuses connected to to this new configuration. Note, I write currently - one thing I've learned over the years is education plus politics equals constant change.
Our evaluation tool was recently revamped in our district and had a lot of components that could remain and some needed tweaking and some were added. I found it interesting it's no longer called an evaluation but a teacher performance rubric. All rubrics I have seen as a parent or created as a teacher have values to the columns so you can add points up to help guide an overall rating. Our teacher performance rubric does not. So, in the end it's very subjective. It was previously but if you change the name to rubric it seems to me it should mirror what actual rubrics do. We have four ratings on our rubric; ineffective, developing, proficient, and accomplished. The word proficient is way over used here in the state of Ohio. We use it for students, teachers and I don't know about administrators. What I do know is the word proficient sends a message of okay - you can do the work. What about using any of these synonyms; accomplished, clever, effective, expert, qualified, skillful, and trained? These synonyms might not go over too well with the general public but I do like the feeling that I am a whiz or slick at what I do! The saddest information I heard on Friday was our building administrators were told you probably won't have accomplished teachers. To paraphrase what was second hand once or twice around is, accomplished teachers are teachers you have visitors flying in to see or are flying out places to present. What about the teacher who presents at conferences locally and at a state level? What about the teacher who teaches classes within a district, outside a district, or online? What about the teacher who has local visitors? What about the teacher who might skype visits with other teachers for professional learning or share videos of their teaching via other avenues. I dabble a bit in a few of these things because I chose to and I've been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Not all teachers have these opportunities. I walked away feeling a discouraging message was sent to our staff that this level on the rubric is for the next Debbie Miller and many of them see that our of their reach. I think the intention was to let people know this is hard to achieve and don't get discouraged. Please don't crush people for reaching for the stars. What district wouldn't want classrooms full of Debbie Millers? I wish our district had a plan to help teachers strive to be accomplished and encourage excitement to continue growing as a professional. Build your staff up and get their names our there.
Student learning objectives are going to be used for primary grade teachers to measure growth. We have over 20 buildings of teachers and have hired a half time student learning objective consultant to help with this process next school year. I am glad they are going to offer support with this new project but can already see a half time person is not enough for the size of our district. There is no easy answer for showing growth. I've lived the world of standardized testing and using that to rate my effectiveness as a teacher. I didn't like not having control over the assessment. Student learning objectives can give me some control since I write the objectives. We've been asked to write two for the year. We've been asked to write them as a team. We've been asked to differentiate them for the various levels in our classroom. I was a bit surprised these were by team and by a whole class. Our students are individuals and classes have different needs. Are we really doing what is best for each child if we write global goals? One of our jobs is to grow students. I don't think it's a bad thing to have to record it and show evidence. It doesn't worry me this is part of our evaluations, it's part of the job. I also think it's really early in the whole project whether it's within our district or from the state to see how this will all play out. I saw a couple of examples but wasn't impressed with either of them and of course they weren't kindergarten samples. It was discouraging to realize we will have half the time to get to know our students before we write student learning objects and for anyone teaching kindergarten you know how hard and the needs are starting the school year.
I hope if you are on journey with student learning objectives and/or teacher evaluation tools you will join the conversation by leaving a comment.