from the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Update for Week of August 22, 2011 | http://bit.ly/n5yiTd
AALA (and 4LAKids) wishes to thank an anonymous LAUSD principal for writing this article.
Over the course of my career I have had the opportunity to work with many new teachers. Whether as a mentor or an administrator, my experience has been the same. A bright and starry-eyed young person sits before you with a deficit of experience and an excess of innocent exuberance just waiting to change the world.
More times than not, these Utopian souls see themselves as the next Jaime Escalante.
More times than not, I see them that way too.
However, I always tell them the same thing, “No matter how noble your motivation, no matter how hard you work, the minute you signed your contract, you became a part of the problems in education today.” This is not a scare tactic, but my first attempt at helping them brace themselves for the inevitable shock of seeing your profession torn apart in the media. No matter how hard we work, no matter how many gains we make, in the eyes of the media and thus the public, we will still be judged on what we have not yet accomplished and not how far we have come. This seems to be a driving force behind the movement for a system of accountability that relies on CST scores and value-added data to evaluate teacher effectiveness.
Superintendent Deasy and the District have responded to this pressure by creating a new system of teacher evaluation based on the recommendations from the LAUSD Teacher Effectiveness Task Force (TETF) including multiple measures, differentiated compensation, harder to achieve tenure and more power to fire or lay off teachers. In the District’s own words, “LAUSD developed an educator effectiveness strategy with three key purposes: Identifying, celebrating and learning from excellence [compensation], helping everyone get better [multiple measure evaluation], and ensuring quality control [easier to fire ineffective teachers].” Many of our principals and teachers have just completed the training for Phase II of this Educator Growth and Development Program (aka “the pilot”), and there are more concerns now than before. While I applaud and fully support our Superintendent’s efforts to build a better mouse trap, the urgency to get one to market seems unproductive at best and destructive at worst.
The new system has multiple flaws that make it user-unfriendly and places a huge emphasis on leaving a lengthy and hyper detailed “paper trail” of evidence. Instead of two dog and pony observations we are now asked to perform, we will be scheduling three. Each one of these observations will take hours of closed door, computerbased work to complete. To complicate matters and finances even worse, observations will have to be done by two observers. What parts of the principal’s job will suffer when s/he is locked in the office completing the 60th or 70th observation? Further, it’s not clear that there is any evidence that close adherence to the LAUSD created, 28- paged rubric will have an impact on student achievement. It has never been tested and is based on focus group intuition rather than clear research. Given that the system is being built in a way that will eventually reward or punish teacher and administrator behavior, it seems that a more prudent and careful approach is most appropriate at this time.
A better evaluation system is much needed, but a one size fits all, top down approach is antithetical to our mission as a district. Further, it could ultimately fail because, once again, we are trying to put the cart before the horse.
The new system is not even close to being ready for a pilot, and the District rushed forward to implementation prior to reaching negotiated agreements on evaluation with AALA and UTLA.
Another problem is the underlying conflict of interest between the key philosophical perspectives of the program.
A program that endeavors to foster professional growth and increase the effectiveness of the core relationships between principal/teacher and teacher/student cannot easily be used to ferret out and fire ineffective employees.
One goal will be achieved through trust and additional support and resources for schools; the other, through changes to applicable laws and the collective bargaining agreements.
As we move forward with Dr. Deasy’s vision, we need to keep in mind that evaluation based on growth must serve the key relationships at our school sites or it will fall short of excellence. A healthy relationship comes from a thoughtful, respectful stance towards those we work with, in which we as administrators/mentors combine solid understanding of teacher growth and development with our deeply felt respect for our teachers and profession.
The current pilot creates a state of adherence to practice that is the antithesis of respect. While sound practice is important, it must take a secondary role and support the overall quality of the relationship. In my experience, such an attitude on the part of the principal frees the teacher to respond with a natural willingness and, over time, nurtures a profound level of understanding and dedication. Our best examples of excellence in the profession have developed out of the fertile soil of this type of relationship and not adherence to a check list of must do’s.
This continually comes as a surprise to the media and those looking from without the profession. There is so much emphasis on technique that we always presume that if only we can get more pair/share or better questioning into our practice that everything else will follow. However, there is so much more to quality instruction than that.
Our attitude is equally important in effective professional development, in communications, and building the relationships you envision among the stakeholders at your school site.
Teaching is a challenge because it involves the intricate dance and subtleties of human interaction and a deep understanding of our teachers, students and most importantly, ourselves. In this light, much of the work being done on the new system is encouraging and hopeful. But it is the journey and the work we do collectively that will get us to where we want to go.
Dr. Deasy has a clear vision that includes teacher growth and greater student achievement, but to effectively lead an organization as large as LAUSD takes patience. Good wine isn’t put out to market after the first pressing.
Speed is not of the essence if we are interested in high quality, sustainable, long lasting, systematic change. Good programs need some barrel time too.
Given the burdensome amount of work that the system will create for the pilot schools, we should make sure that it is not work done in vain. How disheartening it would be for these schools to pilot a program that may not even make it through the collective bargaining hurdles. Moving slowly and with caution can help us get the system right from the start. It will also allow us the time to gather data on its effectiveness as a tool to evaluate and consequently move practice in a positive direction. If we keep getting positive results, and the feedback helps to hone the system, we may have a tool that could garner the needed buy-in across the District and revolutionize the process of evaluation.
I know our Superintendent wants to put his mark on the District. I also understand the urgency he feels to address
the issues that could lead to a better system for all stakeholders, but sometimes passion is best served with a large scoop of prudence.
Furthermore, I urge all those involved to look at this system carefully and to proceed with intelligence and Zenlike patience as we move into this new era where accountability merges blindly with modern technology.
Great things are possible, but our humanity is at stake if we are not careful.
Goosing the gander?
Dan Basalone Responded on Facebook:
Has anyone ever seen the evaluation instrument used to rate Superintendents and other senior staff administrators in LAUSD. It would appear that all are failures according to standardized test results and should be dismissed instead of being socially promoted with new contracts and pay raises. And, certainly the Superintendent and his senior staff should have at least a three year probationary period so that they can be let go without payouts for their lack of student progress. This isn't to say that principals and teachers as well as all other certificated and classified employees should not be evaluated and dismissed if found incompetent, but it should also be true for superintendents and his senior staff...what is good for the goose should also be good for the gander.