EVAL EVIL: PASCO TEACHER OBSERVATION PROTOCOL IS A PERNICIOUS PLOY
Teacher Observations Are Just Another Means by Which to Dispose of Career Educators and Advance Florida’s War on Public Education
It’s that especially rewarding time of year for teachers again: Teacher Observation Window time! Contrary to what most laypeople would think, the new teacher evaluation protocol is anything but well-conceived. It is deliberately contrived in order to create as complete a mess as can humanly be achieved, while simultaneously embedding fear and emotional chaos in the hearts of all public school teachers for as long as possible each school year.
This school year marks the first that Pasco County Schools will score teachers in all four “domains” of the fantastically idiotic Marzano “framework.” As if one domain with 41 elements of evaluation tyranny wasn’t enough to lay waste to the requisite number of teaching careers, the district office has added propellant to the blaze. We teachers all know what’s coming, and it ain’t gonna be pretty. Bubba himself has said that teachers in his pint-sized Podunk principality have been rated too high for his taste.
When you’re a district lackey, you follow orders, whether they’re written or merely understood; otherwise you’ll get shipped back to hell (a school) on your ear, to be evaluated like the rest of the peasants (teachers). Bubba doesn’t even need to formally issue orders to get his point across to the district dolts. All he needs to do is say a few things to his buddy Solochek, who then puts it in the Gradebook blog as if it’s some kind of profound thought or something. The district supervisors then communicate what he wants down to the school level administrators, and it gets done, and Browning never really issued the order. If school level administrators know what’s good for them they’ll get in line, or they’ll be bounced themselves. It’s the perfect system for institutional tyranny.
Of course, that’s just my opinion.
A Dearth of Decent Administrators
School administrators are increasingly young people who are as eager to exit the classroom as they are to become assistant principals and principals. More than a few never wanted to teach to begin with; they simply had to punch their cards in the classroom for three years in order to get into the AP pool. That’s the way it works. Accordingly, the last thing they want is to find themselves back in those classrooms. To many, the easiest route to being considered a great assistant principal is to torment teachers.
In defense of (some) assistant principals, their world is not a kind one. They serve largely at the whim of their principals. Many principals are known for treating their APs like garbage; some are legendary for the same reason. It takes a very hungry person to be an AP; what keeps a lot of them going is the prospect of becoming a principal. Unfortunately, what also keeps a whole lot of APs going is the fact that they’re in the perfect position to take all their anger and/or emotional shortcomings out on the teachers they do not like. It happens everyday, and Pasco County Schools is set up as the perfect venue for that kind of maladministration.
Evaluative Evil for Public Perusal
This year, in addition to Classroom Strategies and Behaviors (Domain 1), teachers get to navigate three more evaluative minefields (Domains 2, 3 & 4) containing 19 more “elements,” bringing the total number of elements by which their administrators can torpedo their careers to 60.
Domain 1 is divided into three lesson segments, which in turn are divided into design questions, which are themselves either divided into elements, or merely repeated as “elements” of themselves. This is some truly complicated shit here.
What follows is the entire Marzano Art and Science of Teaching Teacher Evaluation Model Learning Map, neatly compiled into outline form, the way he should have done it himself to begin with. It forms the foundation of what Pasco calls its “Teacher Evaluation Framework.” I’m not making this stuff up; it’s all copy/pasted right off the Pasco County Schools’ website. All I did was change the format from his silly “map” to an outline. Remember outlines? I guess they went to same place as standard, sensible arithmetic.
Domain 1: Classroom Strategies and Behaviors
Lesson Segments Involving Routine Events
DQ1: Communicating Learning Goals and Feedback
1. Providing Clear Learning Goals and Scales (Rubrics)
2. Tracking Student Progress
3. Celebrating Success
DQ6: Establishing Rules and Procedures
4. Establishing Classroom Routines
5. Organizing the Physical Layout of the Classroom
Lesson Segments Addressing Content
DQ2: Helping Students Interact with New Knowledge
6. Identifying Critical Information
7. Organizing Students to Interact with New Knowledge
8. Previewing New Content
9. Chunking Content into “Digestible Bites”
10. Processing of New Information
11. Elaborating on New Information
12. Recording and Representing Knowledge
13. Reflecting on Learning
DQ3: Helping Students Practice and Deepen New Knowledge
14. Reviewing Content
15. Organizing Students to Practice and Deepen Knowledge
16. Using Homework
17. Examining Similarities and Differences
18. Examining Errors in Reasoning
19. Practicing Skills, Strategies, and Processes
20. Revising Knowledge
DQ4: Helping Students Generate and Test Hypotheses
21. Organizing Students for Cognitively Complex Tasks
22. Engaging Students in Cognitively Complex Tasks Involving Hypothesis Generation and Testing
23. Providing Resources and Guidance
Lesson Segments Enacted on the Spot
DQ5: Engaging Students
24. Noticing When Students are Not Engaged
25. Using Academic Games
26. Managing Response Rates
27. Using Physical Movement
28. Maintaining a Lively Pace
29. Demonstrating Intensity and Enthusiasm
30. Using Friendly Controversy
31. Providing Opportunities for Students to Talk about Themselves
32. Presenting Unusual or Intriguing Information
DQ7: Recognizing Adherence to Rules and Procedures
33. Demonstrating “Withitness”
34. Applying Consequences for Lack of Adherence to Rules and Procedures
35. Acknowledging Adherence to Rules and Procedures
DQ8: Establishing and Maintaining Effective Relationships with Students
36. Understanding Students’ Interests and Background
37. Using Verbal and Nonverbal Behaviors that Indicate Affection for Students
38. Displaying Objectivity and Control
DQ9: Communicating High Expectations for All Students
39. Demonstrating Value and Respect for Low Expectancy Students
40. Asking Questions of Low Expectancy Students
41. Probing Incorrect Answers with Low Expectancy Students
Domain 1 is all about the dance. It’s all about the dog and pony show that District says we shouldn’t do. We have to do it. Our only other choice is to be evaluated out of our classrooms.
Domain 2: Planning and Preparing
Planning and Preparing
Planning and Preparing for Lessons and Units
42. Effective Scaffolding of Information with Lessons
43. Lessons within Units
44. Attention to Established Content Standards
Planning and Preparing for Use of Resources and Technology
45. Use of Available Traditional Resources
46. Use of Available Technology
Planning and Preparing for the Needs of English Language Learners
47. Needs of English Language Learners
Planning and Preparing for the Needs of Students Receiving Special Education
48. Needs of Students Receiving Special Education
Planning and Preparing for the Needs of Students Who Lack Support for Schooling
49. Needs of Students Who Lack Support for Schooling
That’s it for Domain 2. Lucky us. As you can see, by the time we get through Domain 2 we’re starting to hit break dance tempo. Now to Domains 3 & 4. Marzano clearly saved some of his best work for the end of this masterpiece.
Domain 3: Reflecting on Teaching
Reflecting on Teaching
Evaluating Personal Performance
50. Identifying Areas of Pedagogical Strength and Weakness
51. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Individual Lessons and Units
52. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Specific Pedagogical Strategies and Behaviors
Developing and Implementing a Professional Growth Plan
53. Developing a Written Growth and Development Plan
54. Monitoring Progress Relative to the Professional Growth and Development Plan
Domain 4: Collegiality and Professionalism
Collegiality and Professionalism
Promoting a Positive Environment
55. Promoting Positive Interactions with Colleagues
56. Promoting Positive Interactions about Students and Parents
Promoting Exchange of Ideas and Strategies
57. Seeking Mentorship for Areas of Need or Interest
58. Mentoring Other Teachers and Sharing Ideas and Strategies
Promoting District and School Development
59. Adhering to District and School Rule and Procedures
60. Participating in District and School Initiatives
That’s it. The whole moronic Marzano evaluation artifice. While I copy/pasted it straight from his “map,” I saw no good reason to put it down like he had it. I think his original reason for doing it that way was to make it look scientific. It just isn’t possible to pick the idiotic framework apart element by element without writing a book. Of course, that’s why the authorities adopted it.
Domain 4 is truly an institutional snake in the grass, just waiting to be used to bite teachers for any number of transgressions or shortcomings as perceived (or invented) by hungry, young administrators who want to wave them good-bye.
You might’ve noticed that in Lesson Segments Involving Routine Events (snore), it jumps from DQ1 to DQ6. I don’t know why; you’ll have to ask Marzano. He probably can’t tell you either. Maybe he was drunk when he came up with his “Learning Map.” Just looking at this stuff makes me want a drink myself.
He does offer us a nice little explanation for something; I’m not sure what that is either. For what it’s worth, here it is:
Note: DQ referrers [sic] to Design Questions in the Marzano Art and Science of Teaching Framework. The nine (9) DQs organize the 41 elements in Domain 1. The final Design Question, DQ10: Developing Effective Lessons Organized into a Cohesive Unit is contained in Domain 2: Planning and Preparing.
Of course, all this cutting-edge science ain’t free. You’ll have to pay to get this high tech teacher tormenting tool. So, in keeping with the capitalist values driving this whole scheme, Marzano issues this:
©2011 Robert J. Marzano. Can only be digitized in iObservation.
iObservation is a registered trademark of Learning Sciences International®
Geez. I sure hope I haven’t unknowingly digitized anything. I could be in some deep trouble here. For those who might be wondering, iObservation is Marzano’s really scientific observation web tool. Bubba didn’t like it, so he had his minions come up with myPGS, which is the same, but with a different name, and maybe cheaper.
One of the biggest problems with the “Framework” is that the observations associated with it are so high-stakes. Most Pasco teachers get two: a formal (announced) observation in the fall, and an informal (unannounced) observation in the spring. Nearly everything hinges on the fall observation.
The administrator conducting your observation notifies you that you will be observed within “a one week window.” It might be the day you receive notification, or it might be several days later. Any teacher with a grain of common sense is going to shift into get ready mode.
Bubba Gets Steamed
Last March, my favorite education “reporter” posted an article about how incensed Bubba was because a union “building rep” (volunteer school-level union representative) had written an email that said,
“This system seems to be an even bigger pain in the tuchus than the old formal evaluations were. My suggestion is, you make up your dog and pony show lesson plan for each week, put it in a box and pull it out when Admin walks in. Tell your kids you may suddenly stop in your tracks and start something new, it’s just that evaluation thing. Come see me if you need coaching or you have questions.”
Seems fair enough to me. Apparently, Browning is so irretrievably out of touch with reality that he got really, really angry about that email. The truth is that teachers just don’t have time for monkey business like the all-encompassing “teacher evaluation framework.” It’s stupid. It doesn’t account for contingencies. It doesn’t account for personalities. It places much too much weight on a single hour in a single day of a school year that is some 5,775 hours long. It is ridiculous. It is the institutional embodiment of absurdity.
True Lies, or the World According to Bubba
In another one of his trademark demonstrations of complete ignorance of, or willful complicity in a system designed to have teachers participate in their own professional assassinations, ol’ Bubba put on his own dog and pony show:
It’s about gaming the system…It’s not about educating our kids. These kinds of emails are incredibly troubling to me. It goes to the heart of where their priorities are. We have got to understand that we are here to educate kids… For a union rep to encourage teachers to put together a dog and pony show is the exact opposite of what this superintendent and School Board have advocated.
Bubba just doesn’t get it. Of course, all he knows about the system is what he’s been told by the collection of scoundrels he’s surrounded himself with. How could we expect any other outcome? What he pretends to not understand is that the system is rigged from the get go. Teachers who comply with “what this superintendent and School Board have advocated” will find themselves out of a job real fast. Ol’ Bubba is a real piece of work. Notice how he avoids discussing issues by relying on the old faithful, “it’s for the kids” mantra. Corporate “reformers” and and other lying opportunists have been using that subterfuge to advance their assault on educators for fifteen years now. It is unacceptable.
Parents need to realize that if a politician says something like, “It’s for the kids,” or, “It’s in the best interests of the kids,” or any kindred statement along the line of “Don’t make me explain; just trust me since I’m looking out for your kids” horse manure, they had better look deeper, and ask why, because the utterance by anyone of such a statement is ample indication that whoever made it lacks a logical argument.
The Reality of “the System”
The single worst aspect of the “framework” is the fact that a vast number of administrators are just not equipped with the competence necessary to “evaluate” many of the teachers they “supervise.” The district is dripping with young, career-minded, “shake & bake” administrators who only achieved the bare minimum of three years experience in teaching before moving on to bigger and better things, like lording over the careers of teachers, many of whom they hold in contempt for one reason or another. The “framework” has countless opportunities to find fault for that very purpose built in. Just take a look at the “domains,” and that fact is readily apparent.
Another Element in the War on Public Education
It is also inescapably obvious that the entire Florida “teacher evaluation” scheme is the product of profoundly pernicious legislature. It’s meant to serve as a vehicle for use not to eliminate bad teachers, but to get rid of any teacher they wish to. At present, the state’s policymaking seems to centered around disposing of older, career classroom teachers, and replacing them with a new breed of young, inexperienced ones who have no concept of what it takes to last as a classroom teacher for more than a few years. As young recruits, they are now indeed the darlings of the new system, but time is not on their side. In just a few years, if they haven’t already quit, they too will find themselves in the crosshairs of the state’s “accountability” gestapo.
Kurt Browning has had many opportunities to diminish the damage that the state’s crooked campaign against public schools is doing to teachers, but he has instead chosen to moan about the latitude the law affords him.
Kurt Browning must be held accountable for the trainwreck that Pasco County Schools is becoming. At this point, it is largely of his own making.
While the state is attacking on both the testing and teacher evaluation fronts, from angles designed to use students as pawns in a grand gambit to discredit teachers and public schools across the board, Kurt Browning acts as if there is nothing he can do about anything.
As Kurt once said, “It just can’t be.”
Kurt Browning cannot be so incurably ignorant that he is unaware that the overriding ambition that drives the twin assaults on public education is the desire to reduce it to a profit-generating industry, void of any consideration beyond that of dollars and cents. Browning will say he’s done what he can.
He has not.
Parents should be as worried about the new teacher “evaluation” gimmick as they are about high-stakes testing. They are both components of an insidiously nefarious nexus that binds them together as twin evils in Florida’s War on Public Education.