September 30, 2012

Do Not Embarrass Me

Teachers in the state of Louisiana are assessed on their effectiveness based on two factors: COMPASS evaluations (two formal observations per calendar year) and student progress (as measured by the state standardized test). Each of these factors contributes to 50% of my overall score.

I would be lying to say this doesn't intimidate me. In Illinois, I was never held accountable for my students' performance on the standardized test, probably because my district was exceeding the state requirements each year. In contrast, there is definitely a lot of pressure on teachers and students in Louisiana to achieve tremendous growth on these assessments, because they are so far behind.

The good news, I've been told, is that because our students are so far behind, it's pretty much guaranteed that they will show growth each year. Even the Teach for America teachers who come in with little training have been able to see how success in their students' scores.

Observations, I've learned from experience, are super subjective. We were formally trained on the COMPASS evaluations during a staff development meeting the other week, and even as a staff, we were unable to come to a consensus score for the model videos we watched. And when I say we didn't agree, I mean one group would evaluate the teacher as highly effective while another group would evaluate the same teacher as ineffective.

To help us prepare for these formal observations (which are done by persons from the state rather than building administrators), our administration and mentor teachers do several practice observations to give us feedback on where we stand. The big joke in 8th grade is that we're all going to be evaluated during our one section of students that has terrible behavior problems. Everyone has huge issues with this group, so no one wants them to be the measure of success, even in an informal observation.

On Friday morning, I had an unexpected informal observation during that section. Surprisingly, though, they weren't all that bad. I mean, they were by no means model students, but for them, they were pretty darn good. I didn't think a whole lot of it until the principal and mentor teacher walked out and one of my students said, "Miss L, we were really good, huh?"

"Yeah, did you see how I stopped arguing with you when they walked in?" another one chimed in.

"We didn't want to embarrass you," the first student informed me with pride. (I found out later that they were awful for another teacher who was observed during their section earlier in the week, and she chewed them out for it.)

I looked around the room at a sea of faces eager to receive praise for their positive behavior. It was all I could do to not laugh. Didn't they realize that was how they should behave all the time?? I thanked them for their support and gave them all a candy reward for "not embarrassing me."

Well, at least they know how to pull it together when another adult walks into the room... right?

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