Teacher evaluation: Are we failing our profession?
I am writing this blog post tonight filled with a wide range of emotions: anger, sadness, more anger, fear, and despair. I usually try to keep my emotions out of blogging, but I am taking a different approach with this post. Clearly, I am emotionally charged. My hope is that it will serve as a call to action for you.
As you may already be aware, I am out of the classroom this year. Currently, my job is managing a grant in my district helping to facilitate teacher led reform in four focus areas: teacher evaluation, professional learning, career pathways for teacher leadership and compensation. As part of my job, I have had the opportunity to travel around the state of Oregon and learn about pockets of reform that are happening around the country and what that looks like. It has been a fantastic learning experience.
With that said, I have had two experiences lately where I have learned about physical education teacher evaluation that is happening in other school districts and I am deeply troubled. I am still processing how I feel about these situations, but I feel compelled to share them with the digital physical education community. I want to ask the community:
As a profession, have we failed in communicating what quality physical education looks like?
Maybe, these examples are isolated in nature, but my suspicion is that they are not. In fact, the first example I learned about today from a school district that was brought to Oregon from out of state to describe their performance pay and evaluation system. What does this look like for physical educators? I’m glad you asked.
This district (name and state shall remain unnamed, but this information is publicly available on the internet) bases their entire compensation system for teachers on evaluation outcomes. 50% of a teacher’s evaluation outcome is a result of performance and 50% is based on student achievement. What worries me is how this district defines student achievement for physical education. The breakdown is as follows:
25% is a rigorous performance assessment that is given district wide. I’m not entirely sure what this assessment is, but my hunch is it is a fitness test. The following comment was made twice by the presenters and I wrote it down verbatim the second time because I was so blown away. The comment was:
“we want everyone to have a ‘high stakes’ component to their evaluation.”
Complicating matters is that when you apply for a job in this district, they require you to submit student achievement data as part of that process. The following comment was made today by the presenters with “how cool” it was that, “yesterday, we were looking at PE teacher applicants and comparing how many pushups their students were able to do.”
I can’t begin to make this up, folks.
In addition to the 25% performance assessment, the remainder of the student achievement component is as follows:
15% is a district knowledge assessment
5% is how well the school does on their state testing (this percentage is for every teacher aka “we are all in this together”)
5% is tied to how well students do on their state test in Math. (for K-8 PE, High School PE chose writing). PE teachers were consulted with this 5% and had to choose a core content area that this 5% was attributed to. The idea is that this will cause PE teachers to also reinforce math strategies they are using in classrooms building wide.
Let me restate this, 50% of a physical education teachers evaluation is based on this criteria.
Where have we gone wrong as a profession…
My second story comes from a district I ran a workshop in recently. At one point during the workshop, I was asked by an engaged teacher what my thoughts were on the emphasis of skill development with middle school students. I asked the teacher to give me some more context on the situation and what they told me absolutely blew me away.
This teacher told me that they were scored very low in their most recent evaluation by their principal. According to the teacher, the principal’s partner was a high level athlete in volleyball. When the evaluation occurred, the teacher happened to be teaching a middle school volleyball unit. The teacher was downgraded significantly because they had modified the game into a small sided game, had modified rules and in the evaluator’s opinion, “carries were happening regularly and skill work did not reflect that of what an athletic practice should look like.”
This is an anecdotal story so I feel we need to take it with a grain of salt, but it begs the question. Do teacher evaluations occur like this one?
Where have we gone wrong as a profession…
Most importantly, how can we change this?