D.C. teacher evaluation program leader critiques my column
Jason Kamras, director of teacher human capital strategy for the D.C. schools, is in charge of the IMPACT program for teacher evaluation in the city. He is trying to help me understand his complex system. Here is an e-mail he recently sent me giving his view on my column in today's Metro section. Since this subject is so complicated, I am going to continue to offer space on this blog to Kamras or any teachers who want to provide details of their evaluation experiences so we can all figure it out. This is one of the most interesting, and controversial, assessment efforts in the country. I long for as much useful information about it as possible.
In his e-mail, Kamras quoted parts of my column and then gave his responses. He is quoting from an earlier version of the column I sent him in advance. (I send everything I write to all relevant sources in advance to check for errors.) So the quotes here may be somewhat different than what you see in the column just below this item on the blog:
Mathews: If the process is designed, as its creators say, to stimulate thoughtful exchanges about pedagogy, it needs to provide just as much detail on the best teachers as it does on those needing to improve. Just as they do with their students, teachers like Mahoney expect to be evaluated, not admired.
Kamras: Mr. Mahoney was evaluated – not “admired.” It just so happens that Mr. Mahoney is an excellent teacher. We should celebrate this fact, not question its authenticity. It is also important to recognize that the written comments represent just a fraction of the interaction between the teacher and the Master Educator. Recall that, after each observation, the Master Educator meets with the teacher for at least 30 minutes to explain the scores and to discuss concrete steps for improving instruction and student achievement. Short, concise comments by no means indicate a lack of “thoughtful exchanges about pedagogy” between the teacher and the evaluator during the post-observation conference. Furthermore, many teachers continue to communicate with the Master Educators who observed even after their conferences because they find the dialogue so valuable.
As IMPACT continues to develop, we plan on synthesizing what we see in the best classrooms and sharing this information with teachers across the district. The central office is already putting together an online portal that will provide teachers with numerous professional development resources created by their highest-performing colleagues. It will also provide video exemplars of the most effective DCPS teachers.
[Note from Mathews: This is fine, but if the evaluation leads to someone being fired, it might be a good idea to make sure the written version doesn't leave out anything important.]
Mathews: It is hard to believe, reading the assessments of Mahoney’s Master Educator evaluator, that the evaluator was not aware of Mahoney’s reputation and influenced by it. “I was a true pleasure observing your class,” the evaluator concluded. “I am inspired by your passion and compassion for teaching and for your students.”
Kamras: Mr. Mahoney’s evaluator moved to DC in August after teaching in New York City, upstate New York, and Washington State. She did not know anything about Mr. Mahoney prior to conducting the observation. One would expect teachers who earn near-perfect evaluation scores to inspire strongly positive comments from the Master Educators who observe them. After all, one of the purposes of IMPACT is to celebrate great teaching.
Mathews: Mahoney deserves his high marks. But parts of the evaluation were vague. On multiple learning styles, the report said “Mr. Mahoney attempted and effectively targeted three learning styles: visual, kinesthetic and interpersonal,” without giving any examples.
Kamras: The exact text from the comment for Teach 4 is: “Mr. Mahoney attempted and effectively targeted three learning styles: visual, kinesthetic and interpersonal. The use of an interpersonal style allowed students to work together in a ‘safe’ environment unafraid to make an error in front of their peers.” The evaluator clearly comments on why one of those learning styles was particularly effective, and Mr. Mahoney and the Master Educator almost certainly discussed these comments in greater detail during the post-observation conference.
For all the Post's Education coverage, please see http://washingtonpost.com/education.
For more from Jay, go to http://washingtonpost.com/class-struggle
| January 4, 2010; 12:56 PM ET
Categories: Jay on the Web | Tags: D.C. schools, IMPACT teacher evaluation, Jason Kamras, John F. Mahoney, Master Educator
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