Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Hypocrisy of Admin Demanding Constant Assessment

There's a new thing in town. Apparently, though test scores are to count up to 50% of your rating, you aren't supposed to use them too much when rating your students. You need to constantly keep your eye on them, and constantly ask them whether they understand or not. You could, for example ask them to raise their right hands if they understand, or their left if they do not. Or you could give them red and green cards. Have them hold up green if they understand, and red if they don't.

This is an odd system, if you ask me. I use the old-fashioned method of constantly asking questions and seeing who can and cannot answer. I am also constantly walking around to see who's on task, who isn't, who's doing it right, and who isn't. But this isn't acceptable anymore, apparently. Rather, I am to rely on the word of a bunch of teenagers for whether or not they understand. Naturally, since this system assumes teenagers to be perfectly secure in themselves at all times, they will never, ever have issues admitting in front of all their peers that they don't understand what's going on.

This is odd, because I learned early on that the question, "Do you understand?" is totally useless. If I depend on kids to tell me whether they understand, I won't find out whether or not they're telling me the truth until I actually give a test and check the results. Because guess what? A lot of people who don't know what's going on simply will not admit it, and that applies to already insecure teenagers as much as anyone. In fact, when is the last time you heard a mea culpa from your principal? When's the last time you got one from your union leader?

I mean, if your supervisor insists you spend class time with kids raising cards, you could always ask them to just raise the green ones to each and every question, and then you will look like a genius. But that's not what's bothering me here. If it is good practice to constantly assess rather than wait until test time, why do we have a system to evaluate professionals that is exactly opposite?

Right now, in NYC, the MOTP portion of your rating is based upon as few as 4 snapshot observations, a single hour of the many you put in throughout the year. Some must be off the cuff, since the system assumes you sit around and read the paper at the desk all year until the supervisor comes in. Then, of course, you give a highly effective textbook lesson, because you can turn on the good stuff whenever you feel like it. I'd argue that, for better or worse, we do all we can all the time, but that's not the point either.

The point is, particularly if you're struggling, particularly if you need help, it's the supervisor's job to provide assistance. If you are not getting a decent rating, it's unconscionable if the supervisor only walked in four times and told you you sucked. It's particularly unconscionable if said supervisor is one who subscribes to the perpetual assessment theory and imposes it on his underlings. Leaders practice what they preach.

I'd argue that formative observations, those that don't count, are a waste of time if a teacher is doing well. In fact, for a teacher doing well, the required four observations are probably a whole lot more than enough. But if the supervisor, the one who fervently believes in formative assessment, can't be bothered to practice it for those he's charged with assessing, he's a hypocrite of the first order, and ought to find a job more suited to his particular talents.

I'm thinking the line at Wendy's, but I'm open to suggestions.
blog comments powered by Disqus