Sunday, April 22, 2012

Perception is Reality

                Over the past few years, the American society has been enveloped in the negativity of the educational environment. The Federal government has shared that the most important factor within a person’s education is the teacher, and that this teacher needs to be evaluated through a one stop evaluation system. This same message has resonated in many of the State Legislatures and is now being implemented.

                President Obama (D) orchestrated the Race to the Top program, which simply gave millions of dollars to States to develop an evaluation system and to remove ineffective teachers.  Although the selling of this program was not listed in this manner, the reality seems to be that all failure of education belongs to teachers. Therefore, the system has worked to develop a robust, very expensive evaluation model which, in Florida, was implemented through SB 736 in 2011.

                The monies that Florida received for Race to the Top did not go into the classroom. The reality is that most of that money has been spent in buying the rights to use the Marzano model of evaluation. The irony of this model, is that Marzano himself has stated in his own books, “I strongly believe that there is not (nor will there ever be) a formula for effective teaching”.
With the hypocrisy continuing to develop, Marzano sold an evaluation system to the State of Florida for an unspecified amount of monies, and the majority of the 67 counties in Florida are now using this system. The system is being utilized to evaluate teaching, yet, in reality it is being utilized for punitive reward or removal of favored teachers. The government has said that the system was created to be more collaborative within the field of education and that great teachers would be validated while bad teachers would be removed.

                The irony of a statement such as this is that education is an art. Every teacher has a different method for designing their art and they work within their own style to develop the future of our educated workforce. I certainly understand that there are some artists that are better than others, yet I do not understand an Evaluation tool that is designed that can truly to define who the great artists are from the not so great ones. To me this is perception.

                This year, I have spent a lot of time talking with teachers and administrators and have been listening to the disconnect within my educational circle. Within my own county, the disconnect seems to be the same as in surrounding counties, so I do not believe this to be an abnormal evaluation. Through my analysis, what I am seeing is that administrators are grading teachers based on a review through arbitrary factors. Administration is supposed to walk through classrooms on a consistent basis. My administrator was so busy through the year that he was only able to see me for a total of 16 minutes throughout the year, and when he came to me for my formal observation, he was only able to see a portion of the class. When he and I met for my final evaluation, he looked at me, saw that most of the check marks were within the evaluation and said, “Effective”. I did ask what it takes to be highly effective, and I was told that Effective is the new Highly Effective. Respectfully, for a teacher who considers their art work to be toward the highly effective model, I want to know why I am just effective, and how I become highly effective. I have asked this question to my administrator, to other administrators and to the Union, and at this time none of them are able to qualify what makes a Highly Effective teacher.

                Any qualified teacher knows that they are going to be evaluated by an administrator. What the teachers would like to know is how they are able to reach their full potential. As teachers we offer to our students a rubric which allocates point scores. The observation system that we are being held to has no definitive idea of the skill of teaching. Rather it is very prescriptive to place teachers into a box. Further, when teachers are able to follow the script as it is being asked, the power to evaluate is then left in the hands of an administrator to decide how effective the teacher is. Respectfully, without a true rubric, the aspect of truthful evaluation is further turned into an open ended joke. Talking among teachers, we are now pondering how this evaluation system is moving the abilities of teachers forward. The power to decide the fate of a teacher is now in the hands of an administrator. This is not collaborative at all.

This means that every teacher has to succumb to the whim of the administrators and principals for fear that retribution may arrive from any disagreements. Collegiality is being removed from the field of education and is being replaced with a one size fits all punitive model. If this was the goal  of the Florida Politicians, then I can share with them that their goal has been achieved.  Yet I believe that the original intent of the Political environment was to develop a system that moves the field of education further ahead. The reality is very different, which is why teacher morale is so low. Every teacher has to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, yet the field of education is treating teachers as ignorant children.  

The field of education needs to be overhauled, and designed for the 21st century. Presidents need not make education a competition, State legislators need not force the hand of school systems to create Charter Schools for their own gain and school administrators need to learn that teachers are the foundation of our future. There are many ways to evaluate art, yet with every critique there is a differing argument of perspective. Our American Society needs strong, powerful teachers who are able to design their art to stand the test of time. There are many ways to do this; yet this cannot be done with a one stop model to contain every teacher. Perception is reality, and right now, the reality is that every teacher needs to stop the art of teaching and begin the color by number evaluation model.

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