Apparently Gov. Bill Haslam has managed to suck the joy out of every public classroom in Tennessee, which let’s face it is the main reason teachers choose that profession to begin with, because they sure as hell aren’t in it for the money.
(Update: speaking of teacher pay, Charles Pierce has a beeeee-yootiful smack down of the latest nonsense from our favorite right-wing talking point factories. Give it a read.)
From the New York Times, we learn that the new evaluation system Tennessee implemented as part of receiving a $500 million federal Race To The Top grant is so arbitrary, divisive and unfair, it’s become an epic disaster:
The state is micromanaging principals to a degree never seen before here, and perhaps anywhere. For example, Mr. Shelton is required to have a pre-observation conference with each teacher (which takes 20 minutes), observe the teacher for a period (50 minutes), conduct a post-observation conference (20 minutes), and fill out a rubric with 19 variables and give teachers a score from 1 to 5 (40 minutes).
He must have copies of his evaluations ready for any visit by a county evaluator, who evaluates whether Mr. Shelton has properly evaluated the teachers.
He is required to do at least four observations a year for the 65 teachers at his school, although the changes suggested last week would save paperwork by allowing two of the observations to be done back to back.
Teachers have it worse. Half of their assessment is based on their students’ results on state test scores, a serious problem for those who teach subjects with no state test.
To solve that, the state is requiring teachers without test results to be evaluated based on the scores of teachers at their school with test results. So Emily Mitchell, a first-grade teacher at David Youree Elementary, will be evaluated using the school’s fifth-grade writing scores.
“How stupid is that?” said Michelle Pheneger, who teaches ACT math prep at Blackman High and is also being evaluated in part based on writing scores. “My job can be at risk, and I’m not even being evaluated by my own work.”
For 15 percent of their testing evaluation, teachers without scores are permitted to choose which subject test they want to be judged on. Few pick something related to their expertise; instead, they try to anticipate the subject that their school is likely to score well on in the state exams next spring.
And this is why we can’t have nice things. Once again, Tennessee is a national posterchild for being unable to, in effect, tie its shoelaces. The Republicans want government off everyone’s back except, you know, when they don’t. Then they’re all up in everyone’s business, like school principals, whom they don’t trust to know their teachers and their schools.
This cracked me up:
State officials have said that by next year, they will develop ways to assess teachers in subjects with no state test.
Mr. Tackett is skeptical. “I’ll be interested to see how they evaluate a band director,” he said.
Yes, that should be very interesting.
Even worse, because we’re one of the first Race To The Top states, all eyes are on us. And unfortunately, our screw-up doesn’t bode well for everyone else.
I confess I’m late to the party on this one. I don’t follow education issues as closely as I should, there’s just too much other stuff I’m more interested in, so there you have it. Tom Humphrey does a pretty good job of delving into the issue, and exposes some really severe denialism over at the State Dept. of Education. Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman seems to think that just a few little tweaks are needed and mostly what we’re hearing is the whining of those pampered, unionized teachers who are just complaining because they’re used to getting their way all the time.
Meanwhile, I’ve gleaned that one big problem is the way we have modified the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) evaluation system. Humphrey writes:
The new system is adapted from the Teacher Advancement Program, which is nationally recognized in education circles, but Lyndal Duke, principal of a Rutherford County Elementary School, said the state ignored helpful components of that model, including such things as having “mentor teachers” to help colleagues, performance pay and intense professional development efforts.
Oh. Right, the stuff that costs money. That figures.
Here’s what one principal told the New York Times about the new system:
He says the new state policies put everyone under stress, are divisive and suck the joy out of a building. “What I need to make my school better is pretty simple,” he said. “I want everybody to be happy. If they’re happy, they will do a better job.”
This is something Republicans just don’t get. It’s all stick with these clowns, never any carrot. They think if they’re the biggest dicks in the room they can force a good performance out of people. At least, that’s kind of how I took Kevin Huffman’s remarks. He’s saying teachers aren’t used to be evaluated, they’ve had it easy all these years. Give it a year, they’ll get used to it, the whining will stop! Meanwhile, you have people who are doing one of the hardest, most under-appreciated jobs there is and instead of listening to the people in the field — the “generals on the ground,” if you will — they’re all like, pfft. What do they know? We’re going to impose these arbitrary rules on you, make the band director get evaluated based on math scores or whatever.
I really don’t think turning our state’s schools into a real-world version of the TV show “Survivor” is in the best interest of our kids. But again, that’s just me.