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Pretty Awful Report On “Reforming” Teacher Observation Practices

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Democrats For Education Reform (DFER) has just published a report on “reforming” teacher evaluations that is — how can I put this — just awful.  It’s called Culture of Countenance: Teachers, Observers and the Effort to Reform Teacher Evaluations (thanks to Alexander Russo for the tip).

I suspect, and hope, that others (maybe Bruce D. Baker at School Finance 101) will make a much more careful look at it than I have, but here are a few quick reflections. Let me know if you have others:

Here’s one excerpt:

Administrators recognize that observations are widely viewed as cursory exercises not expected to yield meaningful information. Correspondingly, today’s teachers expect little feedback, positive or negative, from the observation or the subsequent evaluation.

This seems like a pretty wide assumption to make, don’t you think? It certainly hasn’t been my experience.

Next excerpt:

It describes “The Widget Effect” as “the definitive report on teacher evaluations.” This is a widely criticized — one could almost use the word “discredited” report done by The New Teacher Project. Here’s a pretty thorough critique of that report.

Next excerpt:

I’m writing this at a computer that’s new to to me, and my technical ineptitude is preventing me from inserting a good screenshot of a “hypothetical graph” that’s included in the report. I think you can make it out in this shot, though (the text says “The hypothetical graph above offers another way to visualize administrators’ frustration with observation feedback.”). I wasn’t aware that “hypothetical graphs” were a particular genre used in research reports.

Here’s a tweet by Bruce Baker about it:

 

graph

Excerpt Three:

It says that states should:

Use statutes and regulation to set a foundation for observation system.

Um, how about involving teachers in, let’s say, in something called collective bargaining?

Other comments:

It doesn’t even mention Peer Assistance and Review, which has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to use teacher evaluations (The Best Resources On Peer Assistance & Review (PAR) Programs).

And, most crticially — in my view, at least — the report lists several purposes for teacher observations, but doesn’t including anything explicit about what the most importance purpose should be: for supporting teachers so they can develop their professional skills.

Let me know what you think of the report…..

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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