Teacher evaluation is a controversial topic. It is often thought by the general public and even some educators that once a teacher rises to a certain level there is little incentive to alter practices based on current research or training and even more alarming the ability for an administrator to terminate a teacher's contract can be difficult.
According to surveys of parents and administrators, incompetence in the teaching profession has become a major concern (Bridges 1984). On one occasion 45% of polled public school parents felt that some teachers in the local schools should be fired. In another survey school administrators estimated that 5 to 15% of their teachers performed unsatisfactorily. Yet dismissal of tenured teachers for incompetence is still relatively rare. (Ellis, 2003, p.1)
Evaluation can be seen as a mere formality put in place to ensure less questioning about funding. "...evaluation procedures risk becoming meaningless exercises for the majority of teachers who are already performing at or beyond the minimal level (McLaughlin, 1990; Searfoss & Enz, 1996). (Weiss & Weiss, 2003, p. 1)
The public views teacher evaluation as a major problem in the school system today (Soar and others, 1983). Common methods for evaluating teachers, such as measurement tests of teacher characteristics, student achievement test scores, and ratings of teachers' classroom performance, have been ineffective. (Barrett, 2003, p.1)
The proposed solution, rather than focusing on the legal strength of schools and districts to dismiss ineffective educators surrounds increasing incentive for improvement, and improving evaluation and training procedures for both successful educators and those possibly on the margins of low levels of success in the classroom.
A first step is for administrators to adopt and publish reasonable criteria for teacher performance. Not only do these criteria encourage teachers to excel, but failure to meet such criteria may provide a legal basis for dismissal. The second step is for administrators to develop a process for determining whether a teacher has adequately satisfied the criteria. (Ellis, 2003, p.1)
Ellis then goes on to express the importance of intervention and input from teachers about their specific needs and goals.
After defining a teacher's problems according to specific standards of acceptable performance, principals should work with the teacher to establish objectives and strategies for improving the teacher's performance. Future teaching behavior should be monitored carefully and measured against these objectives using observation, regularly scheduled evaluations, and continuing feedback to the teacher. (Ellis, 2003, p.1)
Though this particular example, in the above document, includes accountability for poor performance as a formative tool for teacher evaluation the concept of the development of effective and useful evaluation guidelines should be addressed through positive collaboration with educators, administrators, and student outcomes. Teachers themselves sometimes even express the lack of accessibility to prior evaluations and concern about the ability of the assessment as a research tool to improve their skill as a teacher. The importance of teacher input on the process of teacher evaluation will be discussed in this work.
Recently the Po Dunk School District teachers attended a Continuing Education Seminar presented by Po University on the subject of teacher evaluation, their use and their importance. Areas under evaluation during the seminar were: the rational, purpose, criteria, uses, planning, and organization of a teacher evaluation program. The area administrators, namely the principals of all the district schools wish to involve the teachers input on issues regarding their own evaluation process, and how it might be added to or changed to better meet the needs of teachers in their professional growth process. One of the most useful outcomes of this seminar was a compilation of ratings effecting the impact teachers feel certain questions have upon the usability of teacher evaluations as outcomes-based tools.
Based on the outcomes of the closing survey this work will serve as a research guide to explain through a literary review the outcomes of the teachers seminar process. The attendees were offered a group of eleven questions on teacher evaluation, which they ranked according to their greater understanding of the impetus and needs of the evaluation process. Of the eleven questions five were ranked highest by the teachers and teachers were assigned the responsibility, in small groups to discuss and then research the questions for better understanding and also as an outcome guide for their seminar experience.
This work is the compilation of the seminar assignment and will be distributed to attending teachers, principal organizers and also Po State presenters for use as an outcome guide for both understanding about teacher evaluation and also to serve as a work in progress for future organized continuing education seminars to be attended annually by a group from each district in the region rotating through the region at an interval of five years. In which case, every five years the program will be offered to the same teachers who will then be given information based on the outcomes of the class before them and who will then build a curriculum for the class that follows.
The five questions ranked highest and chosen for further research and discussion by the attendees are:
What are the characteristics of effective teaching?
Why is teacher evaluation important?
How do the results of the evaluation help you?
What methods are used to evaluate teachers?
What are the factors that influence teacher evaluation?
After the initial ranking of the original eleven questions, and the identification of the five most crucial questions small groups were then each assigned one of the five questions to research and discuss along with relevant and inclusive research material for their task. The results of those discussions and the group research follow.
Research and Discussion Outcomes
Group one's research question is: What are the characteristics of effective teaching? The discussion preceding the group research revolved around issues of time management and student outcomes. The group contended that curriculum and tools are only as effective as the ability for the teacher to express the curriculum's messages in such a way that students are offered the proper environment, time and tools for the learning of the information offered.
Each member of the group first offered suggestions and real life examples of effective time management and environment development that have aided their abilities to engender realistic and goal oriented outcomes from their students. Teachers also gave examples of ways in which they have been required to be flexible to the needs of students and their variety of learning styles and intuitive to ways in which changes can be made to improve outcomes. Recognizing needs through careful observation of daily as well as scheduled student assessment tools and evaluating the outcomes goals and the input of parent and student suggestions is crucial to an outcome-based learning environment.
The group then moved on to assess the offered research and chose those examples among the documents they were offered which best answered their question and best described the experienced-based data they collected in their discussion. The teachers in group one chose to discuss and evaluate the five core principals of teaching excellence as identified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS)
Teachers are committed to students and their learning,
Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students,
Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning,
Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience, and Teachers are members of learning communities. (Harman, 2003, p.3)
Using these five guidelines teachers further discussed the ways in which their real life teaching experience and the guidelines actually interplay to make them better at what they do and further help them self-evaluate according to these standards of teaching excellence. The group's conclusion is that like the NBPTS they would prefer any future teaching evaluations to follow the guidelines presented in these five areas and be used as a general rule to determine teaching excellence.
Group number two's question is: Why is teacher evaluation important? The introductory material within the seminar gave some seed information for the answer to this question that also serves as a springboard for this discussion. The group discussion revolved around the ideas that correct and effective teacher evaluation processes ensure teaching excellence and offer intervention for teachers who have fallen behind or need further guidance to improve their skills as teachers and build better student outcomes.
Though the teachers themselves did not feel that poor teaching was as prevalent as the introductory examples of public opinion may express they did feel that because teaching in the compulsory education system is a cumulative process, as each student can excel or fail at each step of the process teacher evaluation based on student outcomes is crucial to each teacher that will follow the career of the student and therefore the overall success of the student.
In other words the group wished to stress that making sure that each link in the system is strong will better ensure the future success of all students. "The NBPTS recognizes that students learn by constructing new…