Teacher Evaluation Proposal

Teacher Evaluation Proposal

teacher evaluationPrincipals in NYC have to evaluate each teacher according to one of two options:

  • once formally and three times informally OR
  • six times informally

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Let’s say I’m a Principal in Brooklyn with a k-5 school. Let’s say I have 1300 students. Let’s say I have 80 teachers. Let’s say this is not hypothetical. It’s a real place. It’s a well-run school. What’s my teacher evaluation plan?


It’s a simple question of time. 80 x 4 (the lesser option) = 320. There are 180 days of school. 20 of those are lost to testing. Another 10 are lost to the day before/after vacations (useless – and somewhat cruel – for observations). These assessments must be completed by June 6, according to the evaluation framework. I have to attend Principal’s conferences about every two weeks. I’m left with about 100 days for 320 observations. ( Here is the UFT’s guide for teachers to the evaluations. )

Add the conference with each teacher about each observation. Add the summative end-of-year assessment. Add to that the writing up and submitting of each, on a new system that keeps logging me out as I write.

Add to that: running a school.

nyevaluation_512x288The question is one of time. Teacher assessment is important, but if you keep adding tasks, you have to take some tasks away. An observation surely costs more time than the 15 minutes to 1 hour in the room. Something gets lost. What tasks do we cut? Is it the schedule? Is it the budget? Is it curriculum writing or Professional Development? Staff meetings? Team meetings? Grade-level meetings? 

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EVALUATIONS-timesNow picture what we’re asking on a classroom level. For each teacher, we’re adding requirements, tests, standards, and curricula. We keep adding to a teacher’s tasks, just like we do with the Principals. “Reading is important. Add 20 minutes a day. Number play is important. Add 20 minutes. A good teacher conferences with each student. Each day. The students know each standard, and can link what they’re doing to the number.”


Here’s  a simple proposal for schools.  Every time we ask the schools to do something else, we specify what we have them stop doing.
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So if we ask them to teach more non-fiction writing, we agree to either reduce the amount of fiction they read, or increase the amount of time for reading through decreasing something specific. What should that be? Math? Or, if we ask elementary teachers to spend more time on math, we agree that they spend less time on some specific skill. And what should that be? Who wants to be the person (politician? educator?) arguing for LESS math or reading? 


Every time we ask a teacherOr, if we ask principals to spend more time training new teachers, we agree that they spend less time preparing reports for central administration. We hire a budget manager. We don’t pull them out of the building every other week for a Principal’s conference.  

Taken individually, more reading of non-fiction, more training of new teachers, more teaching of math are all great and important ideas.  So is doing more differentiated learning, more social skills curricula for emotional learning, more hands on science etc etc. 


But unless we believe the (simply stupid) idea that teachers, counselors and principals just aren’t working hard enough, all of these ideas come at the expense of something.  That something winds up being decided on a reactive, ad hoc basis without thought on what truly are our priorities in a school.  

Every time we ask a teacherOur schools, and our society in general suffer from a disease where we want what we want, but we don’t want to pay for it.  In our schools paying for it means not doing so much of certain things in order to add others. 

So I ask you what specific things should we do more of in a school and what should we curtail?  

For further reading, a NY Times reporter followed a staff in another Brooklyn school. The staff gives specifics on hours spent on observations and what they can reasonably accomplish. 

The Huffington Post published a series of blogs written by teachers navigating the evaluation system.

co-written: John Russo has taught in NYC public and private school for 10 years. Jared Gellert is the executive Director for CITE.

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