School Principals Swamped by Teacher Evaluations

"School Principals Swamped by Teacher Evaluations", that's the title of an article on an ABC News report this past weekend.

Sharon McNary believes in having tough teacher evaluations.

But these days, the Memphis principal finds herself rushing to cram in what amounts to 20 times the number of observations previously required for veteran teachers – including those she knows are excellent – sometimes to the detriment of her other duties.

"I don't think there's a principal that would say they don't agree we don't need a more rigorous evaluation system," says Ms. McNary, who is president of the Tennessee Principals Association as well as principal at Richland Elementary. "But now it seems that we've gone to [the opposite] extreme."
"There is no evidence that any of this works," says Carol Burris, a Long Island principal who co-authored an open letter of concern with more than 1,200 other principals in the state. "Our worry is that over time these practices are going to hurt kids and destroy the positive culture of our schools."
In Tennessee, the biggest complaint from many principals is simply the amount of time required from them for the new observation system. Veteran teachers, who in the past only needed to be evaluated every five years, now get four observations a year. Untenured teachers need six.

Each observation involves a complicated rubric and scoring system, discussions with the teacher before and afterward, and a written report – a total of perhaps two to four hours for each one, Ms. McNary estimates.

This last observation is one JTF talked about in one of our most popular articles.

Let's just think for a minute about these observations.

There must be 2 per year per teacher of at least 30 minutes each. 30 minutes + 30 minutes = 1 hour. 1 hour x 146,000 teachers = 146,000 hours of observation per year.

But these observers aren't just going to magically appear. They will need time to organize the observations, to get to the classes, to record their findings and to issue a report. Conservatively this adds another hour per year per teacher to the effort.

Now we are at 292,000 hours per year just for this provision alone.

If someone were to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year it would take them over 140 years to complete this task. Since these observations have to be completed annually that means we're going to need at least 140 more administrators just for this provision alone!

This dawning realization is also hitting home in Ohio now too,

Nordonia Hills is one of dozens of school districts across the state that are piloting the new evaluation program -- which state education officials have been working on for the past several years.

Superintendent Joe Clark said the district has been involved in the state's move to revamp the teacher evaluation process since he came on board in 2009 as assistant superintendent. Charged with performing human resource and personnel management for the district, Clark said he felt the teacher evaluation system needed a drastic upgrade.

This year, pilot evaluations are being conducted on six teachers -- three each at Nordonia High School and Ledgeview Elementary.

Nordonia hills has 236 teachers according to the Department of Education. It's taken them 3 years to get to the point of observing 6 of them.

Clark said many aspects of the program remain to be worked out. He said "student growth," one factor in the process, has yet to be specified, for example.

That student growth measure is 50% of the mandated evaluation. You can begin to see when we say Teacher evaluations are years away from completion, we're not exaggerating.

The Nordonia Hills superintendent did his own math

Clark said the process requires an evaluator -- typically the building principal or assistant principal -- to observe teachers in class twice for at least 30 minutes each time. The process also involves meetings prior to, and after each observation session.

Likewise, the new process is much more time consuming. Clark said evaluating 80 teachers at Nordonia High School would require 480 meetings.

"And that's not counting the time to write up the evaluations," Clark said, adding "How is that possible? There's only 180 school days in the year."

Teacher observations are an important and valuable tool for professional development and evaluation. Few would argue that. The problem becomes one of time and resources. HB153 was passed without any consideration to the mammoth amount of work needed to implement these corporate education reforms. Indeed, HB153, rather than add resources, cuts almost $2 billion dollars from public education.

It's going to be very convenient indeed for corporate education reformers to look upon this impending failure and blame everyone but themselves for not getting results. Why, it might even let them engage in more teacher and union bashing, and argue that their reforms failed because the status quo stood in the way.