I believe three different areas of assessment should contribute to a teacher’s individual evaluation. Evaluations that effect pay and employment status should come from an observer inside the school, and outside consultant, and the students.
Teachers or staff within the school understand the school environment, the culture of the student body, the curriculum goals, and internal influences that impact a teacher’s daily activity. Internal staff has a unique perspective into each classroom. Unfortunately, internal staff may not be able to be objective enough to separate their own opinions about the teacher being evaluated or may not separate personal convictions about classroom management and content presentation.
Expert consultants from outside of the school will be able to objectively observe a teacher without personal bias about a teacher as an individual and will have been trained in the skill of constructive observation. The Danielson Group is an example of a company providing this type of service. However, an outsider may not be aware of the internal challenges that impact an individual teacher. Most importantly, I think the people most impacted by an individual’s abilities as an educator – his or her students – should give evaluations. Student evaluations are extremely insightful and can easily be taken multiple times throughout the year. Student evaluations can be used beginning in kindergarten and the format and complexity can easily be adjusted to match the development level of the student body. For example, a kindergarten class could be asked simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions and answers could be submitted by putting a marble in the appropriate cup. For high school seniors, a combination of multiple choice and short answer questions could be asked through an online survey platform.
Evaluations are not always straightforward. There is so much to take into consideration when evaluating a teacher. Evaluations must be built to represent the level of success in content presentation, classroom management, student-teacher relationships, student success and progress, as well as consideration for the expertise of the individual teacher. For example, a first year teacher should be given more flexibility than a teacher with a decade of experience.
As a new teacher, I would want my evaluation to reflect my potential rather than the multitude of mistakes I am sure to make as I adapt to the classroom environment. An individual observing a new teacher must be able to see the big picture and not get caught up on small failures. During my clinical, I was lucky to have a mentor teacher who celebrated my progress and helped me grow past difficult areas. She didn’t evaluate all of my flaws, but evaluated my potential. Students have a lot of data monitoring their progress as a learner, and teachers should have enough observational data to track their progress as an educator.
Evaluations should come from a multitude of observations, assessments, and data. Schools should help their teachers to self-reflect and feel empowered to make their classroom a better place for everyone. Evaluations should feel less threatening to teachers and should instead be seen as a tool to positively support a classroom and its teacher.