The Teacher-Evaluation Autobahn

In a recent post entitled “Principal-Proof Evaluation” on the National Council for Teacher Quality website, I stumbled upon some baffling commentary.  Obviously, I am still a bit confused, or I wouldn’t be responding.  (I was supposed to be following up on my Teach for America Defense, remember?)

Most of the blog is on target, as the author identifies the need for rigorous and substantive teacher evaluations, and slams the pervasiveness of both inadequate evaluation instruments and “drive-by’s,” that provide little opportunity for serious growth.

Ah, the famous drive-by evaluation.  A dangerous reality of the modern principal.  As an evaluator, I couldn’t agree more.

Then, this.

“For now, principals’ track record indicates a lack of capacity and ability to provide thorough and honest feedback. A robust evaluation tool requires them to make this a priority. We think our teachers and students deserve as much.”

There is no doubt that many principals do not have the instructional “know how” to conduct an intensive evaluation.  However, many do.  To suggest that we need a “robust evaluation tool to make this a priority” is an insult.

There is no higher priority for me – and many of my peers – than improving instruction in our classrooms.   Further, the most frustrating part about the principalship is knowing that days go by where you had little or no opportunity to do any coaching, in spite of the dire need.  It’s in those moments that many effective principals begin to question his or her career choice.  Good principals love nothing more than coaching.  It’s the true leadership that we are supposedly hired to demonstrate.

But, the system prioritizes management.

Earlier in the blog, the author points out that principals have workloads that would make your “head spin,” but then flippantly implies that we need a better evaluation tool to move teacher quality higher on our list of priorities.

Do we need better evaluation instruments? Absolutely.  Do I need to be encouraged to move evaluations higher on my list?  Absolutely not.

I need a shorter list.  Or, I need more time with teachers.  Instead, we send them home for months.  I need more time during the instructional day.  But, we send kids home for months, too.   In other words, we do a fantastic job of stripping leaders of the time they need to be just that: leaders.

You can provide me with the most rigorous instrument ever created, but if I can’t get to it with regularity, it cannot be implemented with fidelity.

Feel that gust of wind?  That’s the breeze of an evaluation “drive by.”  And, the principal went by so fast I bet you couldn’t even read what instrument she was carrying, could you?




Mike Lee

Mike Lee

Phoenix, Arizona

I am the Director of Outreach and Engagement for The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and certified as a Middle Childhood Generalist in 2004. In 2012, I received my doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, however, I began my work in education serving as a para-educator in a special education program while still an undergraduate. My passions in the field include assessment and reporting strategies, the evolving role of technology, teacher leadership, and effective professional development that permanently impacts instruction. I consider myself a professional teacher first, as well as a professionally evolving lifelong learner, who is incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to impact the lives of children.

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