The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Chapter 3 How Does Your School System Evaluate Its Teachers

In  order  for  your child to receive the  education  he  is entitled to, you need to know how your school system chooses  and evaluates its teachers.

A  district may have award winning physical facilities,  the most expensive books and the latest hot-off-the press  innovative programs,  and the smallest class size, but if it does  not  have good  teachers, than your child’s education is in jeopardy.  Good school  systems  know  this and spend a great deal  of  time  and effort recruiting and hiring the best teachers available.

These  systems  appoint a committee consisting not  only  of administrators but of teachers and parents who have been  trained to  recognize  the  qualities they want in a  teacher  who  would enhance  the  educational program in their district.

The  first  step  the  committee  takes  is  to  screen  the applications of a large pool of potential candidates.  They  then do  an  intensive  evaluation  of the  group  who  survived  this screening.

The committee holds personal interviews with the  remaining candidates  and  reviews  their references.   This  review  often involves  talking  personally  to  the  person  who  wrote  the reference.  In the case of teachers who are recent graduates, the committee  inquires about the program they were trained  in,  its educational philosophy and the quality of the professional staff.

When  a tentative rank-ordering of the candidates  has  been made,  the  committee’s  next  step is  to  start  with  the  top candidate  and  to observe her teaching.  The  committee  members have been trained to do this well.  They understand that this  is the most crucial step in the whole process because a teacher  may talk  a good line and tell the committee what it wants  to  hear, but have no idea how to translate what she says into working with children in the classroom.

A  trained  observer  understands a  great  deal  about  the teacher  by just looking around the classroom.  Of  all  possible things to emphasize what does she choose?  Is everything teacher-generated  with no evidence of what the students are doing?   Are all  the  desks  placed in such a way that  the  children  cannot communicate and work with each other let alone with the  teacher?  Is  the teacher so afraid of children and of losing control  that she requires complete silence and no movement?

In watching the teacher with the class, the observer has the opportunity  to  note  how she disciplines, how  she  takes  into account  different  learning  styles, how  she  uses  cooperative learning lessons, how she presents the curriculum and in general, how  she functions with the group before her.   This  information can only be obtained by observation, not by a verbal interview.

This  process results in hiring the best teachers  available to teach your children and is absolutely essential.

Not  all  school systems give  rigorous,  objective  teacher recruitment a high priority.  In some places, it is not what  you know,  it is who you know that counts.  Those systems often  have an  unspoken but understood policy of interviewing and  employing only those candidates with political connections.   As a  result, many  outstanding candidates are eliminated  from  consideration.

The  children  suffer the consequences of poor teaching  if  less capable  teachers are hired.  When this happens, the  recruitment process is rarely blamed, rather the children are blamed for lack of   intelligence  or  the  parents  are  blamed  for   lack  of involvement.

For your children’s sake it is important for you to know how teachers  are  chosen  in your district.   Since  many  of  these decisions are made over the summer, now is the time to find out.


Posted in Educational Reform, From Experience, Getting the Most For Your Child, Parenting, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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