Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good classroom observations aren't easy

Classroom observations can be a vital part of a good teacher evaluation,  but only if the people doing the observing have been well trained and tested to prove they know what they're doing.

That conclusion, from the latest Measures of Effective Teaching report, won't come as a shock to teachers,  who have long complained that too many administrators do rushed or biased observations.  Nor does it surprised Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leaders,  who are working with the researchers funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to figure out how good teaching can be measured.  Chief Academic Officer Ann Clark says principals have been watching videos of classroom lessons and scoring them to develop their skill as classroom observers.

Districts across the country are trying to figure out how to recognize, recruit and reward teachers who can make a difference with kids.  Efforts to gauge effectiveness with number-crunching  --  such as CMS'  rollout of value-added ratings last year  --  have hit resistance.  But as the latest report indicates,  it's not easy to watch teachers in action and rate them, either.

Judy Kidd,  president of the Charlotte-based Classroom Teachers Association,  raised that concern when CMS and the state of North Carolina rolled out new reports on ratings of teachers in all schools, based on a new state evaluation form.  She said she doesn't believe administrators are familiar enough with the new system to deliver solid ratings.

The CMS Talent Effectiveness Project and the state Department of Public Instruction are both moving toward evaluations that will incorporate good observations, value-added ratings based on test scores and other measures of effectiveness.  And the national researchers taking part in the MET study  (which includes CMS teachers who have volunteered to be interviewed and observed)  are trying to provide guidance.

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