Even with the push in recent years to improve teacher evaluation, principals say that being honest with educators about their performance is too time-consuming, writes Jay Mathews for The Washington Post.
A study by Matthew Kraft of Brown University and Allison Gilmour of Temple University shows that some principals are reluctant to tell teachers that they need improvement based on observations and that observing, documenting and helping unsatisfactory teachers grow can become “overwhelming.”
A separate study by Jason Grissom of Vanderbilt University and Susanna Loeb of Stanford University finds that teachers who are rated ineffective on a low-stakes evaluation are often given more positive ratings on a high-stakes evaluation.
After years of trying to improve the reliability of teacher evaluations and get struggling teachers the help that they need, these studies show that a major element of the process — administrators’ observations — are not being used to accurately rate teachers’ performance. In their study, Grissom and Loeb suggest that principals have demonstrated that they have the capacity to tell the difference between more- and less-effective teachers, but that they possibly face pressure to not identify the poor-performing ones.
They suggest more frequent observations, detailed rubrics that clearly state what is expected of teachers and more training for principals. In fact, in a piece for Educational Leadership, Charlotte Danielson, whose “Framework for Teaching” is widely used across the country to measure teacher effectiveness, notes that administrators needed “multiple opportunities” for practice in order to use the framework correctly. Many districts have made efforts to take observation responsibilities solely off principals’ shoulders by including teacher leaders or other school leaders as observers. And some experts suggest that peer observation might be more effective. It’s clear, however, that whether principals or others are observing, extensive training is needed. This brief from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation outlines ways to create the conditions for more accurate and useful observations.