Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why we should concentrate on educator growth and development when it comes to the educator evaluation process...

If you have been in education for one year, you have most likely experienced the educator evaluation process. Depending on what school you work at, and in which district you work, your experience could be completely different than that of another. I think it is fantastic that individual schools and districts retain the right to do things in a manner which is best fitting for their students and their community, however when an educator evaluation process is lacking and inadequate, the students and community suffer.

Before we can address this issue, we need to agree that the educator evaluation process serves some kind of a purpose. Hopefully, this purpose is much more than just simply saying whether a teacher is good or not. In most districts teachers get a formal evaluation once a year. The teacher is given advanced notice before the evaluation, and the teacher is able to prepare the perfect lesson plan to show off his/her abilities in the classroom. Additionally, there is normally no pre-observation talk to discuss what the teacher is planning, as well as no post-observation talk to discuss what the results of the observation were. Now...I am not a rocket scientist, nor do I claim to know everything about education. I do, however, think educators have one of the most important jobs in the world, and as such would require one of the most intricate and developed methods to evaluate its educators.

First off, if we are given advance notice before our observation, I am fairly certain most educators are going to perform well and have a positive evaluation. How does this really evaluate our educators? How does this help our educators grow and develop their weaknesses into strengths? How can one, advance notice observation, determine the overall effectiveness, or lack thereof, of an educator? How can such an important job have such an underdeveloped evaluation process that frankly hurts educators by not helping them grow and develop, and leaving too many educators in a field in which they are not really suited. Imagine, if we gave each student all the answers to the test, and determined the student's grade purely on that one test...would we really know much about that student? Has that student grown in his/her mastery of the subject matter? We have got to change the evaluation process we use for educators, because in its current form, it is doing more harm than good.

Please allow me to take a step back here. I am an optimistic, forward thinking person, so I would now like to concentrate on educator evaluation programs that focus on educator development and growth. I believe that a great educator evaluation program begins with teacher growth and development. We should be using the evaluation process to help our teachers to grow and become better equipped to deal with the educational challenges of the 21st century. The educator evaluation process needs to be a collaborative process that involves other teachers, administrators, and I honestly think...students. Students have a wealth of knowledge that can improve the educational experience, and frankly their voice is one to which we must listen. It is time to embrace the opinion of others to make sure we are using an evaluation process that helps and actually improves educator ability.

A growing trend in education is standards based grading. I firmly believe a standards based grading system would be an asset to educator development and educator evaluation methods. We would then be able to quantify the strengths and weaknesses of individual educators, while empowering them by helping them to understand ways to improve their skills. In its current form, we are missing out on the chance to help educators find their true strengths, while limiting their weaknesses. Let us challenge each other to make the educational setting as good as it can be. It is time to change!

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