Several years ago, I had a meeting with our principal for a “mid-year” check in. This is when administration wants to get a feel for how things are going (student achievement, personal growth, etc…) and what your plans are for the following year.
I showed him my grades along with the systems of student data collection, goal setting, prioritization, and time management I use for both me and the students. He looked at the papers and then said that while he did appreciate my ideas, “we are using the Danielson framework,” and he would like me, “to focus my time and efforts on more Danielson-related outcomes.” He explained how the world of teaching was changing and older teachers like “us” had to adapt to the new ways. In spite of the school’s low stats I was a little surprised that the improvement in my students’ grades as a direct result of effective goal setting did not make a more convincing argument.
He saw my procedures for providing regular progress reports, comparative class data and access to student information. (All of this under the umbrella of “data management.”) I demonstrated how I use the progress reports to graph unique data that is readily available, but not always utilized by teachers, and where trending was occurring and how students were more invested in their grades yielding higher averages. Giving students more responsibility and ownership over their outcome, will always lead to higher grades (and isn’t that what we want?)
He looked at me and asked, “But how is this going to help raise their grades?” It was at that very moment I made the decision I would not be returning the following year. Here’s why.
If we (administration, teachers and students) lack the understanding of benchmarks, goal setting, time management and prioritization with regard to objective and measurable outcomes, then progress and achievement is virtually impossible .
What I do in class is to apply “Data Collection and Statistical Analysis 101” to my own practice management routine. So why would a principal think it wouldn’t work? It is because while I am following lockstep with the Danielson protocol, I am also adding an additional layer of successful program of data management to the mix? In other words, have I have jumped the tracks?
I like protocols and procedures. They are part of the job and I follow them to the letter. But I believe if there is something that works to increase student achievement, you must use it. I love setting goals. They are the premise of The Business of School program. Goal setting, prioritization, time management, and statistical analysis are needed in schools today, so yes, there is a problem when an administrator asks, “But how is (goal setting) going to help raise student grades?”
Today’s schools are using more ideas and strategies from the business world, and that is great. But those who are introducing those ideas and strategies are not grasping the rationale of how they do what they do. They often lack the “business understanding” of what makes them work. Most of today’s teachers have never been in business. In other words, they are being taught business ideas and terminology without being given the reasoning behind their success. They have never used them in a business environment so they understand – only superficially – how to apply them to, and integrate them with teacher management and student achievement.
Beginning the school year defining “professional strengths and development goals” is a great way to start. Ask an administrator, “Why are we doing this?” I assume the response would be along the lines of, “So we can create benchmarks and monitor both teacher and student progress as we move throughout the year.” What happens next? How often will the principal check on the progress of each teacher? If goals are not monitored and measured daily (as businesses do) – weekly on the outside – then what good are they? What parameters, or metrics, will the school be using? I want to know what the analysis looks like and how it is evaluated. If we try to use “old school” metrics, as today’s “framework for evaluation’ is doing, this new system will fail (as demonstrated by our current numbers and teacher attrition.)
So what vehicle – what metrics or parameters – should we use? The new “framework” is based on rubrics that – as much as we do not want to admit it – remain subjective. This is unacceptable and will not work. It is like building a house on quicksand. To set goals and create high levels of achievement, we must use metrics that are measurable and quantifiable and that can be used by both teacher and student on a daily basis. There is no getting around this.
I understand this was just one principal, and one administrative perspective, but having spent my entire teaching career in New York City, his opinion was not the outlier. Unfortunately, this thinking is micromanaged and leaves very little room for teacher growth and advancement in a system that should be advocating the very principles of professional growth and development. Teachers want something new. They want something they can believe in and buy into. They want to be engaged and invested! They want something that makes sense and allows for growth in this great profession. And I believe administrators are still looking for something better as well.