Do Teachers Want to Be Evaluated?
I once took a job as an administrator in a district in which some teachers hadn’t had a formal evaluation in years. New teachers received at least one classroom visit their first year, but once tenured, it was unlikely that they would ever again be evaluated.
One of my first acts was to set up a supervision and evaluation schedule and inform teachers that they would be receiving classroom visits from me and the assistant principal. Untenured teachers would have at least three yearly evaluations; tenured teachers would have at least one. Classroom visits would start about the third week of school, and would be finished by February. I never saw the benefit of observing a teacher for the first time in April.
I expected push-back from the veterans, but to my surprised they were very positive about the new plan. It turned out that they wanted their administrators to visit their classrooms and to see what was going on. Many were proud of their work, and they wanted some positive feedback. Of course, not everyone got positive feedback (not entirely, anyway), but even those who didn’t still preferred to have regularly scheduled observations and the follow-up conversations with their administrators. I’ve often wondered if the teachers’ response in this district was an anomaly.
Not so, according to this year’s Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession, a survey administered to 10,000 teachers by Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The survey found that teachers in general would like a more comprehensive evaluation of their work as a means to improve their skills. Of particular interest is that teachers overwhelmingly agree that student growth over the course of the year is the most important criteria, but that growth should be measured in myriad ways, not just by standardized tests.
What I found particularly striking, however, is that 82% of teachers said that principal observation and review should contribute a great deal/moderate amount to evaluation. We’ve all heard national union leaders suggest that principals may not be adequately trained to evaluate teachers or that they may not be objective in their evaluations. Yet 82% of teachers surveyed appeared to have no problem with this traditional form of evaluation. By contrast, only 70% thought that self-evaluation should contribute a great deal/moderate amount to evaluation, and only 64% opted for teacher/peer observation and review.
Teachers were far less enthusiastic about student surveys and parent reviews as part of their evaluation. I always gave student surveys to my classes when I taught and I think it gave me useful feedback and generally made me feel good about what I was doing. Would I have wanted it to be part of my formal evaluation? No. Having to share student feedback with an administrator would have changed the open nature of the survey.
As for parent evaluation – frankly, in most cases, parents think what their students tell them. And in my experience as an administrator for many years, parents often confused popularity with competence.
The survey has lots of interesting data and as a companion piece to the recent MetLife survey, offers several different perspectives. In general, the picture of teachers’ current attitudes towards the profession appears more positive in the Scholastic survey (to me anyway), but both are worth a look.