And more to the point. . .

In “On Board”, published by the New York State School Board Association, President Carl Onken writes in his commentary “Said the Education Trust’s Kati Haycock, ‘The research shows that kids who have two, three, four strong teachers in a row will eventually excel, no matter what their background, while kids who have even two weak teachers in a row will never recover.’ Mr. Onken goes on to write that ‘Any board member who is not paying close attention to teacher quality in the district is not paying close attention to student achievement.'”

I would suggest that more to the point would be to replace the words “board member” with “administrator”. Tenure doesn’t protect ineffective teachers; ineffective administrators do that for them. It is our responsibility to clearly and honestly discuss quality teaching individually and collectively. Administrators have to be brave enough to address the tough issues.

I often think of something Professor Janeil Rey said to me seven years ago in my administrative coursework, “you have to decide who you want to be angry with you, the good teachers or the bad teachers.” If I’m not addressing the behavior of the reluctant teachers, the good teachers are ticked. Not hard to figure that one out.


  1. As usual, I find something to chew over in your posts.

    As a teacher beginning his second year, this trend/outcome you cite is very sobering and very liberating at the same time.

    I teach science to 7th and 8th graders, and began teaching (that long year ago) with the commitment that whatever they felt about the course, they would be inspired and feel comfortable taking more science courses.

    Now I feel a different level of challenge. According to the trend cited, as a classroom teacher, I have the ability to interrupt a trend downward, or contribute to an upward trend.

    Very nice, indeed. Thank you.

  2. Kim,
    Thanks so much to you and David for saying it aloud. I, too, attended the workshop entitled Effective Evaluation of the Problem Teacher by Wayne A. Vander Byl.

    As a newer administrator, evaluation has been one of the toughest mountains for me to climb. I have experienced many sleepless evenings wondering about how I can say “it” without hurting someone’s feelings.

    David talked about the “code.” Well, I could have written that part of the worksohp. Code is my strength. Unfortunately it lacks specificity, and no one grows stronger professionally because of good code. It is our responsbility to articulate ineffective practices. The arrows must hit the target. Thanks, Kim, for being “to the point.”

  3. Having been hired and tenured under an administrator who always feed you sunshine, I must say, knowing where you actually stand with an administrator, even if they are unhappy with your performance, is a great improvement. Thank you.

  4. Ok… I finally am hopping in to post on this inspiring blog. I’ve been lurking for awhile here… and promised a post.

    A week ago I came away from an excellent workshop entitled Effective Evaluation of the Problem Teacher by Wayne A. Vander Byl — Wayne is an attorney who handles many 3020a and tenure disputes — and I think he’s seen it all. Two things came out of this workshop that helped me connect to this post in a concrete way as I think about my own role as school administrator in a district much like GHS.

    One point he made, which I resisted at first, was that every observation write up of every untenured teacher ought to indicate clearly whether or not the teacher is doing work that would at presentindicate a recommendation for tenure. Anything less clear, he argued, takes administrators off the hook on the decision. Anything less clear, and we’re into using a sort of code for poor performance: “Mrs. Jones might better engage students by asking them powerful questions. I encourage her to seek out resources on questioning…” See the code? He argued that we often try to “brush the target with the arrow” rather than hit it. I came around to this after some thinking about it. Teachers deserve a clear judgement. It is subjective, but that’s exactly what courageous school leaders are paid to do — render important judgements about instructional staff to help them grow… or to get them out. But we slide into the teacher autonomy thing so easily…

    He also advocated using (for problem teachers) the second person “You…” in all observations, rather than using the passive voice (e.g. “the lesson began with students unable to listen to directions”) or rather than writing about the teacher as if he were an artifact in the room (e.g. “Mrs. Jones took five minutes to get the activity’s directions explained to students.”

    He said that by using the word “You…” in the evaluation of a problem teacher, we can appropriately shift responsibility where it belongs… to the teacher himself (“e.g. You were unable to get the classroom to any semblance of order within the first five minutes. At five minutes into the class, you began the directions without the full attention of the class…”

    I completely agree that ineffective administrators protect poor teachers at times… for a wide variety of reasons. And nothing is as important as the tenure decision.

    Moreover, nothing is as empowering to learning teachers as direct and forthright and concrete recognition of their specific areas of practice. “You really nailed the frontloading activity in your reading of the first chapter of Holes! How the students responded.”

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