by James C. Sherlock
Education schools have a lot to be proud of, primarily their production of teachers.
They also have a lot to answer for, including most of what passes for research and every bit of their practice of constantly changing the language of education to cover the lack of new and contributory ideas. Education schools regularly pass new terminology for old ideas off as new research.
I give you as exhibit A the new Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria for Teachers, revisions to existing standards approved a couple of weeks ago by the Virginia Board of Education. Go here, download Item H. and take a look at the revisions. At least scan it. You will get the idea.
I removed from my copy of that working document the changes that deleted previous language and was left with 117 pages of guidelines for evaluating each teacher. Up from 75 pages in its predecessor.
If Board members had any sense of the absurd in their own work, or the real world in which teachers teach and principals evaluate, they would not have approved it. It is a profound embarrassment.
The New Guidelines
A Virginia Teacher Evaluation Work Group was convened by the Board of Education primarily to write the standards in compliance with the new law mandating a new Performance Standard 6, Culturally Responsive Teaching and Equitable Practices. Here is what they came up with on that specific task:
“Performance Standard 6: Culturally Responsive Teaching and Equitable Practices*
The teacher demonstrates a commitment to equity and provides instruction and classroom strategies that result in culturally inclusive and responsive learning environments and student engagement practices academic achievement for all students.”
Sample Performance Indicators
Examples of teacher work conducted in the performance of the standard may include, but are not limited to:
6.1 Disaggregates assessment, engagement, behavioral, and attendance data by student groups and identifies and applies differentiated strategies to address growth and learning needs of all students with specific attention to students within gap groups.
6.2 Fosters classroom environments that create opportunities for access and achievement by acknowledging, valuing, advocating, and affirming cultural and social diversity in all aspects of the learning process, including for gender, race, ethnicity, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.
6.3 Builds meaningful relationships with all students anchored in affirmation, mutual respect and validation utilizing culturally responsive teaching practices, and by modeling high expectations for all students.
6.4 Utilizes inclusive curriculum and instructional resources that represent and validate diversity from all rings of culture that include generational, gender, religion, class, nationality, race, ethnicity, native language, ability, and sexuality by connecting classroom curriculum and instruction to the cultural examples, experiences, backgrounds, and traditions of all learners.
6.5 Analyzes, selects, and integrates texts, materials, and classroom resources that reflect cultural inclusivity and the needs of all students, including for gender, race, ethnicity, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.
6.6 Uses communication strategies that are inclusive of the language, dialects, cultural, social and literacy needs of all students (including gender, race, ethnicity, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities).
6.7 Teaches students the skills necessary to communicate and engage with diverse groups in ways that support the eradication of discrimination and bias while mitigating against classroom power imbalances (based on race, ethnicity, gender, identity, ability, and/or socio economic status) that perpetuate fear and anxiety of difference.
Put yourself in a teacher’s position and try to figure out what the wording of the new standard means, much less how to comply with it.
You will be interested to know that the ed schools are busy inserting that same language into the standards for teaching kids from birth to five years old. Be very afraid when you see the ed schools defining standards for early childhood education.
Not exhausted by that effort, the Work Group (presumably its contractor) wrote and the Board approved changes to virtually everything else about teacher evaluations. Because they could, not because it made any sense to do so.
Changing the wording every couple of years is a survival tactic by ed school “research” barons in an attempt to show their ongoing relevance.
You will be happy to know that under the Guidelines at least 10% of that evaluation must reflect your child’s academic progress under said teacher. Ten percent. Small favors indeed.
Even the teacher’s evaluation on your child’s academic progress — that minimum ten percent of the teacher’s evaluation — as defined in the Guidelines is more about process than actual results.
The real world of K-12 teacher evaluations
Now put yourself in a principal’s position. An evaluation of subjective standards by definition can’t be accomplished objectively. Most principals will ignore the new wording in this version of the Guidelines with the same ease they ignored its predecessor.
Most principals and teachers care about your kid’s academic progress a lot more than 10%.
Principals will fill out the required evaluation forms, because they are required, but principals know who their best and worst teachers are from a daily array of indicators and the teacher evaluations will reflect that.
And hopefully nothing else.
The ed school effect
The new “Guidelines” represent a perfect ed school solution — expensively created jargon provides the appearance without the substance of change while lacking either objective standards or objective indicators of compliance — and the people doing the work quite rationally ignore it. Symmetry is achieved.
It is not harmless. There is more than a small chance that some of our less talented principals will try to apply that nonsense in their schools. Let us know how that works out.
Now tell me again why we permit the ed schools and the Board of Education to lead us off that cliff.