After participating in a #MusEdChat a couple weeks ago on the topic of teacher evaluation, I began thinking about teacher effectiveness and evaluation, and how those two “E’s” are relating to each other in our current state of education. A few questions arose in my mind: 1) What are the qualities of an effective music educator? and 2) How could music educators be evaluated differently? That evening’s chat posed questions about how frequently each educator is evaluated, by whom are they evaluated, and by what criteria are they assessed. Teachers from different states had contrasting frequency and methods, but it seemed we all were assessed using the Danielson Framework, or something close to it. Additionally, most of the educators were evaluated by administrators and district personnel.
In my district, our formal evaluation consists of a team of three evaluators; a district evaluator, an administrator from our school, and a music teacher within our district. I was pleased with the aspect of having a content teacher evaluate me since she was able to give me feedback that related to my instruction better than the other team members. Often times, most district evaluators or administrators are not music or arts people, so having the addition of a content teacher put me at ease, knowing that someone would understand the content I was teaching!
Another assessment tool that teachers are being evaluated with this year are the Student Learning Objectives, or SLO. In theory, I think this is a good system. However, I wonder how well it consistently measures the effectiveness of a teacher when there are new students each year. Some years we have students with greater aptitudes of music than other years, and as a teacher, I fear my student growth suffering when their aptitude isn’t as high. Like most teachers, I wouldn’t want that to be a reflection of my teaching effectiveness. While I do think student achievement is an important factor in assessing teachers, I don’t feel it should weigh as much as other domains.
This got me thinking. What if I could design my own teacher evaluation system?
Of course, not in a superficial way that makes it “easy” for teachers to pass. I started thinking about all the areas of my instruction and rehearsal that I wish evaluators saw. I thought of high-achieving music programs and how their directors are running their classrooms. I also thought of teachers whom I feel aren’t providing a quality music education for their students, and how they should be assessed. I became frustrated with music programs that are dying out or becoming a “dumping ground” elective. I started scribbling down ideas of how I wanted those teachers to be assessed. Of course, this is entirely of my own design, and I don’t claim to know all there is to know about teacher evaluation. I merely based this on my own observations of music educators and dreamed an ideal world of how we could better be assessed.
- The Evaluation Team: In a perfect world, there would be 4 members: A district evaluator, a school administrator, a teacher in the school from the same department, and a teacher in the district who teaches your content that has 7+ years of experience. I think the balance of district and school expectations and content expectations allows the teacher to receive feedback in all necessary areas. The content teachers are the most beneficial, to me, in this instance. They have not only gone through the district evaluation system, but they understand your content and standards and can better advise your every day instruction.
- Frequency of Evaluation: I realize that teachers aren’t begging to be evaluated, but I do think it’s important in regards to quality control. I think a formal evaluation should be conducted during the second year of teaching, and then have 5-year checkpoints thereafter. Between those formal evaluations, I think school administrator informal evaluations should occur annually either in the form of a Goals Based Evaluation or just a simple routine check-in. I think the 5-year checkpoints would allow teachers time to grow and adapt to new students, resources, and instructional techniques, while still being held accountable.
- Measurements: I agree with the Danielson Domains, and think they provide a well-rounded evaluation system for teachers. However, I struggle with differentiating the relationship between teacher effectiveness and student achievement. If a district is using Student Learning Objectives, and their scores are not meeting the teacher’s goals, I don’t necessarily agree that the teacher is completely at fault. Therefore, I don’t feel that student achievement should weigh as heavily as other domains, but I struggle to come up with a fair system that insures teachers are aiding in student achievement even when they may not be performing well. Perhaps looking at 5-year statistics of student growth and achievement rather than annual achievement may be more insightful. Particularly in the arts, I think this kind of system would be useful. Sometimes there are certain classes of students who collectively don’t compare to the previous class in music aptitude.
- The Environment: While drop-in evaluations stress us all out, I think they should be done periodically but should act as more of a brief observation for 10-15 minutes, rather than an entire class period. As for formal evaluation, I personally like for all of the evaluation team to see a full rehearsal of any ensemble, beginner or advanced. I think it’s important for music educators to be evaluated in their ensemble classes more critically, as that is our main job and developing the program is what we pour our hearts into. Perhaps the drop-in evaluations could be in the other supplemental courses we teach, like piano, music appreciation, music theory, etc. Even though a rehearsal looks completely different than a classroom lesson, it is an excellent indicator of if a teacher can teach concepts and standards THROUGH repertoire teaching.
Again, this is completely without research or discussion, it’s a picture I painted of my ideal evaluation system. I do think it’s fair, and most importantly, I think it advocates for our profession. We function differently than a regular education classroom, so we need to briefly modify our evaluation.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/billsophoto/
I’d love to hear your thoughts on teacher evaluation! Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell.