Teacher evaluation has become a controversial topic in education over the last few years. The state of Arizona has created a framework for measuring teacher effectiveness that includes both classroom observations and assessment data. This change in our teacher evaluation system has created frenzy in many school districts as they scrambled over the last couple of years to purchase, adopt or create evaluation models for their teachers.
As our district explored the various options that were available, I started to notice a few patterns. Every teacher evaluation tool relied on the ability of the evaluator to accurately analyze teacher practice while providing limited opportunities for teachers to analyze their own practice. One tool had over 20 indicators of teacher practice with only one focusing on teacher “reflection”, reflection being what follows analysis. I am curious as to how a teacher is able to reflect on an analysis that is provided by someone else. Teachers cannot accurately reflect without their own analysis. This missing piece holds teachers back from distinguished or innovative performance. Analysis is the ability to examine one’s own practice and to describe the why’s and how’s of the practice. When a teacher has the why’s and how’s at the ready and is able to link the two together then accuracy can occur, opening the door to authentic and effective reflection. An outside observer, no matter how well trained, cannot decode this piece for a teacher. Analysis makes the covert overt. The ability to compose and communicate rationale requires a level of teaching proficiency that is seldom achieved consistently by most teachers. Our current educational culture requires knowing and doing, but seldom penetrating beyond the surface layer to consider purpose that is truly connected to the needs of students and/or the way in which content needs to be scaffolded. It is assumed that all teachers do this, it seems rational and logical that they would.
Why is this critical part of the teaching cycle so often omitted in teacher evaluations? I propose that teacher evaluation tools contain explicitly identified components for self-evaluation through analysis. Teachers should be afforded the opportunity to be part of their own evaluation process, because the reality is that they are the only ones that can truly evaluate and elevate their own practice.