March 25, 2019


An Idea to Change Teacher Evaluation?
Teacher evaluation is a subject I have spent a considerable part of my administrative life thinking about, researching, teaching, mentoring, doing and evaluating. Teacher evaluators spend a great deal of time on this process if they do it with vigor. Even if teacher evaluators do the minimum required by law they spend a considerable amount of time doing the work.
Illinois teacher evaluation law changed in 2010 to require a research-based system (almost all districts in Illinois use The Danielson Frameworks) for teacher practice, and a student growth component must be a minimum of 30% of the teacher's summative evaluation rating. This law requires teachers to be rated using a four-tier rating system of Excellent, Proficient, Needs Improvement or Unsatisfactory. In my opinion, the requirement to rate teachers is often an impediment to a reflective process by the teacher to improve their performance.
I propose that the rules and regulations concerning both teacher and principal evaluation be modified to NOT include a summative rating. While this may seem like a radical change, I believe it would greatly increase the teacher's willingness to be reflective and actually change his/her own behavior. Adult learning research is very specific about how adults change behavior. Adults have to own the behavior change or the change will never occur, or it will only occur when those doing the evaluation are watching.
As a trade-off for not rating the teacher, Illinois teacher unions would need to agree to a process that allows the dismissal of tenured teachers, a process that results in the actual removal of the Unsatisfactory teacher from the classroom. In my proposal, this dismissal process would include the local teachers' union participating in the process to summatively dismiss a teacher.
A model for this possible dismissal process is presently employed in the Rockford School District. If a tenured teacher is determined to need remediation then the teacher enters a probationary period. During this probation the teacher is coached by both the teacher evaluator and also a union teacher who the administration has determined is exemplary in their field and has also passed the ISBE-required teacher evaluation training. At the conclusion of the probationary process, the administrator teacher evaluator would determine if the teacher has sufficiently remediated the deficiencies and can return to normal status. The union teacher coach then either supports the administrator's recommendation or does not support the recommendation. If the recommendation is supported the teacher is dismissed. If the recommendation is not supported then the case goes to a school district committee, with equal representation by union and administration, that makes the final determination.
If teachers did not have to be concerned about the "rating," the emphasis in the discussion between the teacher and the evaluator would concentrate on best practices to improve instruction and student growth/achievement. I believe the rating of the teacher often breaks down the communication channel between the evaluator and the teacher and the rating becomes the emphasis, not the improvement of the teaching.
Does Getting Older (More Experienced) Change Your Leadership Style?
As I was running this morning I was thinking about topics for this week's Update. The topic that came to me concerned how we change our leadership style and even our personality as we get older. I was thinking about how we raised our two oldest children, both boys, vs. how we raised our daughter, who was born ten years after the second child. Discipline and actions I thought were important for the older boys no longer were as important for our daughter. Now, as I see our children raising our grandchildren, a similar evolution is happening. The grandchildren's actions just do not receive the same scrutiny as when I was younger.
While coaching football in the 1970's we had a rule that all hair had to be contained in the helmet. I remember one year when a very fast running back returned in the fall with long hair. I had noticed the hair getting longer in the summer when the athletes were lifting weights at the school three days a week, but I fully expected this young man to cut his hair before we issued equipment. Well, he did not. Being a more experienced coach and not wanting to confront the athlete, I let it slide. Earlier in my career I would never have allowed this.
What is interesting about the above scenario is that this former athlete now belongs to the same golf club I do, and we play golf together from time to time. During one of our golf outings I asked him about his hair during the time period mentioned above. I asked what he would have done if I told him he had to cut his hair to play football. He told me he would not have cut his hair and would have quit football and had already talked it over with his parents. He told me he really liked basketball better and was only playing football because his friends played. He also told me that football (this situation happened in his junior year) became his favorite sport and he went on to play football in college.
The point I am making in this article is that we change as we gain experience and mature. As a mature (old) administrator I can say that this change was positive for both my leadership style and my personality. As school administrators we do not have to solve every problem; there are people we work with who can solve the problems. We do not have to be 24/7 devoted to our positions and our school districts. We need to put cell phones away for certain periods each day. We need to take our vacation days and not check in with the school district every day. We need to spend quality time with our family and devote undivided attention to our spouses and our children. We need to take care of our personal health and find time to exercise. We need to take time to eat healthy and stay away from fast food restaurants in order to get back to work faster. We need to take time to meditate and to scan our own bodies for health and wellness purposes. There are reasons why employers look for experienced candidates:  learn from these reasons and you will be a better leader and a more balanced individual.
Tip of the Week

The three "immediate, high-leverage challenges" that Gates and CZI aim to tackle are: 
  • Improving students' ability to write the kind of nonfiction that is increasingly required in college and the workplace;
  • Deepening students' understanding of key math skills and concepts; and
  • Strengthening children's "executive functions," such as the ability to think flexibly, consider multiple ideas, and regulate their own thoughts, emotions, and actions
As you are discussing future strategic planning initiatives or when you are meeting with administrators and/or teachers, I think these three challenges should be brainstormed to vet the thoughts of the educators in your schools. It might be an interesting discussion.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Richard Voltz
Associate Director
Professional Development/Induction-Mentoring
2648 Beechler Court
Springfield, IL 62703
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