February 9, 2023

The question of how to teacher of teachers seems to draw more controversy than most any other professional occupation. You rarely read news paper articles or hear pundits discussing on talk shows how a pilot, accountant, attorney, or physician should be evaluated. It is generally accepted that people in these professions should be evaluated based on the behaviors that lead to or detract from successful performance of their job. In contrast, teachers’ evaluations are a mixed bag of their behaviors and increasingly outcomes of students’ scores are being introduced as a factor in overall teacher evaluations.

Evaluations must be based on proven criteria that lead to positive student outcomes, not the outcomes (test results) themselves. They must also be linked to broader school district vision and mission statements. Without expected follow up and accountability, vision and mission statements are worthless.

Outcomes as a Measure of Teacher Performance

Outcomes are influenced by behaviors of individuals, but are not completely dependent upon them. For example, if a person is overweight and they follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly, but loose little weight due to a gland or hormone issue, their behavior (or lack of behavior) didn’t prevent them from reaching their desired outcome. Failure to achieve their goal was due to a circumstance they could not influence. Attempting to use student performance on standardized tests to capture a teacher’s performance is flawed in the same way. It is unlikely the future of teacher evaluations won’t include some degree of student performance, but it should be a very small piece of the evaluation pie.

Teacher Performance is Teacher Behavior

A concept that has existed for many years within performance management is “performance is behavior.” When we talk about the performance of one teacher compared to another we’re really talking about how one teacher’s behaviors compare to another. This is perfect because behaviors can be managed through training, motivation, and consequences. So when a school district recognizes the need to improve their performance, look no further than individual behaviors that lead to desired outcomes.

Tools to Manage Teacher Performance

Typical evaluations of teachers are performed 1-3 times a year. Right now, in most districts, an administrative member of the district observes a lesson or two and forms ratings that are supposed to reflect performance for the entire year. This practice is flawed and educators know it. Teachers do not expect to be able to review a student’s work one to three times through the course of the entire year only to find they have mastered the subject material for the year without any other feedback, correction, or motivation. We know these pieces are needed to shape desired outcomes. Tools used to manage the performance of teachers should be varied and frequent just as they are with students. Here are a few examples of tools that can help record teachers performance through the course of a school year.

  • Work Diaries for Teachers– A work diary is a log of workers’ behaviors. It is meant to record the tasks teachers engage in that lead to or detract from desired goals. Teacher work diaries aren’t necessarily a log of behaviors recorded in a notebook. Most often this is kept in an electronic format either saved to a file or integrated into some type of performance management software. Administrators should be looking for and recording specific behaviors and tasks that have been identified on a job analysis that are known to lead to desired outcomes, not randomly jotting notes about their own personal theory. Not that their theories are wrong, but if structured and consistent means of measurement are not used throughout a school district, it is impossible to compare and validate performance of teachers. School districts should begin by completing a job analysis of teachers to capture the essential competencies of effective teaching. Work diaries would then have a template to prompt administrators to only record behaviors proven to lead to positive student outcomes.

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