About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Evaluations: Observation & Value Added Both Weak, Says Teacher

Retro_great_teachers_inspire_greeting_cards-p137872526848721955q0yk_400The discussion over #value added has gotten hopelessly confused with issues of journalistic ethics and individual privacy, and the chances of constructive use of VAM seem to be diminishing by every week, but maybe there's still room for some discussion of the real world pros and cons of its use as an internal evaluation and support tool.  Here's an email describing the vagaries of the current evaluation system, the drive-by classroom observation, and the teachers' resistance to having their VAM scores released publicly, via Whitney Tilson's email blast, revealing both the relative advantages of value added over observations but also the potential pitfalls.  Which would you rather have -- a crappy classroom observation or a crappy statistical measure?

From Whitney Tilson:

Teacher:  I had an Assistant Principal come to my class for five minutes, (the last five of the class), and he decided that I didn't have a lesson plan, and that my students were not grasping the material. This was the only five minutes he spent in my class all year. He gave me a U, and then relented and gave me an 'N" for needs improvement. I was teaching Nietzsche to a class of underperforming sophomores, who were given to me so I could "get them on track." As my class ended, he asked a sophomore who was rushing to get to his next class what he "thought" of Nietzsche. This kids puzzlement justified my "U" I had to have the principal intercede on my behalf. That same year I had 85% pass rate on the AP exam. The point I am making is this... You see a story about making teachers evaluations public, and immediately the public thinks that this is a cover up because we are inundated with a system of slackers who are living the "Life of Riley" off of the public dime. My point is that these evaluations are rarely a measurement of your worth as a teacher, and if a particular administrator has it in for you, as I assure you this one did and still does for me, then they can screw you with the evaluation. Hence, where one might look to this as a cover up by the Teachers Union, another way to look at it is the airing of an "assessment tool" that might present otherwise diligent educators in an unfair light.

WT:  When I replied by asking: “I'm not sure I understand. Wouldn't you benefit if your evaluation was done via objective tests (like AP exams) vs. subjective evals?”, this teacher replied:

Teacher:  That's correct... However, I know far too many people that are slugging it out, doing the right thing, and working in public schools. They are union in name, but for the most part tolerate the many indignities because a lot of good gets done. I know your views on Unions... I suppose what I meant to say is that, just as you can be defensive about an article that might call into questions that real gains made by charters, it pains me to see this as yet another way to rubber stamp the "failed public school system" and the "Evil teacher's Union" when, like Charters, there is grey area that can never be investigated because it doesn't scan well in a headline. I don't get up in the morning and scrutinize my contract, and I know very few of my colleagues who even know what is in there. Most of us show up, work our ass off, and repeat. As far as assessment, I hear you. My father, a Union leader at his school, and a lifer in the classroom, always told me that the only thing you can take away from this job is the way your students remember you. Also, test scores (hard data) can be interesting because, AP aside, (because they show up), my global scores are much lower because attendance. Literally, whether or not a student comes to school is not factored into how they do on an end of the year, or mid-year exam. Based on the kids that fail because they are truant, my evaluation would suffer as well. I have literally been told if a kid doesn't show up, I have to find another way to teach them. The beat goes on...


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Evaluations: Observation & Value Added Both Weak, Says Teacher:


Permalink URL for this entry:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.