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Archive for the ‘Teacher Evaluations’ Category

I have written often about my battle with weight. I’m back in it now. Having reduced myself to 215 pounds, and feeling really good about hitting my goal, I took a break a while back. That break led to more and more unhealthy eating. When I finally hit 233 pounds, I hit a wall in my head that caused me to make a turn and try to start peeling back the pounds once more.

I’m about 99% on a Paleo diet. I make cheating choices occasionally that still fit the low-carb mindset, but might fall outside the pseudo-science of the Paleo diet.  It’s really about low-carb, real-food choices as opposed to the quick-and-easy fast food route.  And it’s working.

At least it appears to be working. (No, that is not my scale).

They tell you to only weigh about once a week when you are dieting.  That makes sense to me, since you should not be obsessing about where you are on the journey.  Make healthy eating and living choices, and let the weight fall where it will.

Yeah.  I don’t do that.

I usually weigh before bed and again when I get up the next morning. I want to know, with more immediacy, if I have strayed too far too quickly.  However, I do only record my weight in the LoseIt app on Sundays.

I’m two-and-a-half weeks back in the game. As of this past Sunday, I had gone from 233 pounds to 227 pounds.  I’m very happy with 2 pounds each week. I’m looking for results.  Not magic.

Yesterday, other than purchasing a Cobb Salad for lunch (which fits the Paleo guidelines), I did not do anything any different from any other day of eating.  Tuesday morning I verified I’m still at 227. This morning?  230.

Two hundred and thirty. A gain of 3 pounds in one day. What the….?

There is a part of me that understands this is a fluke. There are physiological reasons for this. The frontal cortex of my brain that controls logical thinking tries to assure my inner self that this will just disappear in another day. It is an outlier.

Then there is the lizard brain that shouts at me, “My God, Childers! A three pound gain in one freaking day? Are you serious? You are a failure, that’s what you are! A pretender! Just give up and eat what you want. You’re going to do that anyway. Your tombstone should read, ‘At least he ate what he wanted.'”

Some of you can relate.

Are teacher evaluations any different? Our teachers teach three classes every day.  They do this for 180 days.  540 lessons taught in an average year.

We look at 2 or 3 of them and make decisions on what the other 537 looked like throughout the year.

The tyranny of a single data point can be the difference between an under qualified teacher thinking they are rocking it with their kids, or the proverbial rock star thinking they are simply a failure pretending to be a good teacher.

Our teachers deserve better than tyranny.

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I use Klout to judge my social media presence and engagement.  Yeah, I know. I’m just narcissistic enough to care.

For those that do not know, Klout is a social media tool that measures engagement across several social media platforms and gives you a score from 1 to 100 that shows the “value” of your online presence. I’m sure it is more like TVAAS than I would like to admit (I hate TVAAS, I’m addicted to Klout), but it is fun and harmless.

For the longest time, my Klout score stood about 67 or 68.  I was measuring engagement across Facebook and Twitter. Since then, I’ve added Pinterest (don’t judge me), Instagram, and Tumblr. Today I disconnected Flickr.  I’m just not using it much right now. Klout gives me that flexibility. I’ll add it back later when I get ready to do more on social media than I’m doing right now.

At one time my goal was to get above 70.  I finally hit 71, then 72, and a top score of 73. After that, life happened, and I didn’t get to post as much to Instagram as I wanted.  My score started to slip. Then, Instagram took off, but my score dropped again.  Down to 68.  As I write this, it stands at 69. And guess what? It isn’t Instagram that’s the culprit. It’s Twitter. How do I know? Because I have a continuous feedback loop of analytics that show me exactly what’s happening on each social media site.

This is what I like about Klout. It updates my statistics daily. I can know, almost in real time, if I’m doing something that makes a difference. I can look at the analytics and see that, while I am posting a lot to Twitter, it isn’t garnering much discussion, likes, or retweets. So, I need to analyze what I’m doing, make some adjustments, and see if the score changes for the better.

In addition, I am just now starting to get followers and re-pinners on Pinterest, and my Tumblr account is just sort of laying there.

My point is this. I have continual, meaningful feedback directly related to the algorithm that drives this score. I can make minute changes and see, in nearly real time, if I’m on the right track or not.

As an educator, whether teacher or administrator, we are not so fortunate. Educators under the TEAM model are evaluated 4 to 6 times a year.  However, out of those 4 to 6, only 2 or 3 are directly related to instruction.  The rest cover things like planning and environment. So, a teacher that is evaluated in October, but not again until March, has a long time of floundering in the dark to know whether they have raised that 3 to 4, or if their 5 has dropped to a 2.

And, they are rarely evaluated by the same person in the same year.  For fairness, you know. But one evaluator may be looking as a Constitutional strict constructionist and going strictly by the letter of the rubric, while the next may be more of a “living document” proponent that gives a break on certain things they feel are not really that important. It isn’t supposed to work like that, but let’s just be real about it.

What would it look like if teachers were evaluated more along a Klout-like algorithm? What if they could get nearly real-time feedback on the things they try out in class? We’ve got some models that approach this methodology.  Critical Friends is one that comes to mind.

What if we had the luxury of allowing cross-curricular feedback between teachers on a regular basis? Teachers evaluating one another’s lesson plans, visiting classrooms, sharing thoughts, and learning themselves as they critique others? What if we could go beyond the pettiness of the feeling that speaks to our minds, “What do they know about what I do? How can he help me with this?  He’s got his own problems!”  Because, you know, sometimes teachers get like this.

After all, we aren’t really judging teachers here.  We’re judging learning. What does student engagement look like? Can you see the learning happening in this classroom? Does it matter if the teacher is talking, or not, if the students are learning from one another? How do you score a teacher for just getting out of the way and letting the learning happen? That isn’t really in the rubric.

Educators need feedback.  We need to know how we are doing. We need, I’d go so far as to say we crave this knowledge in order to improve on our own practice.

How do we get there? What do we give to legislators that will make them realize how inadequate our current model is?

How do we get to Klout for teachers?

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There are many reasons why we do what we do.  The way we do them. When we do them.  When we started, it all made sense.  There was a need, sometimes an urgent need, that caused us to change what we were doing and do this new thing.

  • We’ve established expectations for behavior in our classrooms
    • Sit down
    • Stay quiet
    • Put your phones away
    • Get out your textbook
    • Sharpen your pencil
    • Buy a 3″ wide 3-ring notebook
  • We’ve established expectations for our faculty meetings
    • Be on time
    • Take notes
    • Listen. To everything. I mean everything.
  • We’ve established expectations for teacher observations
    • Here is the 12-point rubric with 128 separate things that have to be observed.  Every day.  Every period. In 45 minutes. Or 90 minutes.
    • Unpack the standards
    • Do the deep dive
    • Make sure every single student grows. Here, we’ll use this totally arbitrary number that has been shown to be false and misleading, but we’re going to keep using it anyway.

All of this made sense when we started.  Tech wasn’t much in the classroom at the time.  But now, nearly every student from 6th grade on up, has a miniature computer in their pocket that can search the Internet, take pictures for evidence in a science experiment, or run an app that will calculate the velocity of a coconut-laden swallow. It doesn’t make sense to put them away any longer.

All of this made sense when we started. Faculty meetings couldn’t be placed online.  Meetings couldn’t be honed down to an email. Video wasn’t readily available. And you’ve created a PPT, a PDF, and an email with all the stuff you were going to say anyway.  It doesn’t make sense that everyone has to listen to everything any longer.

All of this made sense when we started. OK, no, it didn’t. Teacher observations are not the salvation of education. Growth scores are arbitrary and capricious. Even harmful and debilitating. Expecting teachers to “do it all” all the time is an impossible standard that no teacher evaluator can do for themselves. Expecting teachers to take the blame for poverty, lack of parent involvement, abuse in the home, hunger, the fact that you arbitrarily raise the mark for what is deemed proficient, or the fact that your standards are just no longer interesting or necessary at times, is criminal.

Some of it never made sense.

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(NOTE: Has it really been since November that I’ve posted to this blog?  Wow!)

I’ve had a similar interesting interaction with two fast food chains today.  On their own, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it so much, but taken together it really started to turn the engines in my mind.

Ordinarily, when I stop at McDonald’s to get breakfast on the way to work, I go through the drive-through.  If you ever want a really good experience, go through the breakfast drive-through window at the McDonald’s on Gunbarrel Road in Chattanooga.  They are fast, friendly, and accurate.  All smiles and have-a-nice-days.

Today, however, I went inside.  It was as different as night and day.  The help was slow to take my order.  They took forever to get it together.  They seemed inconvenienced by the customers in line.  And I left feeling very disgruntled about the whole experience.

Same place.  Two different views.

Tonight I hit the same thing.  I decided to go to Chick-fil-A to grab a sandwich on the way home.  I like Chick-fil-A drive-throughs. They are so courteous on the speakers.  They encourage you to have a nice day.  They are polite and all smiles all the time.

But tonight I decided I wanted to go inside for a few minutes and just unwind a bit before the last 1/2 mile home. It was deja vu all over again.  There were 7 people standing around behind the counter.  One lone girl was trying to take everyone’s order.  The manager was standing talking to a friend of his at the end of the counter. I was almost ready to turn around and walk out when there was finally an opening for me at the register.  No smiles.  No I’m sorry for you wait.

Same place.  Two different views.

As is my habit, this got me to thinking about teacher observations and how scores can be all over the map at times.

Same Teacher.  Two observers.

Same Teacher. Two classrooms

Same Teacher. Two days.

We can’t be on our game 100% of the time.  Sometimes we’re going to forget to ask the harder questions.  Sometimes our lesson plans don’t allow for grouping.  Sometimes kids act out.  Sometimes the technology doesn’t work.  Sometimes there simply isn’t a problem to solve.

But what I do see, and what other administrators tell me they see, are teachers that are hard at work every single day making a difference in the lives of their students.  I see teachers that care.  I see teachers that want success for every single student.  I see teachers that meet with kids before school, after school, on planning periods, over lunch, and in between classes.  I see teachers that answer emails long into the night.  I see teachers that don’t stop working just because they are on vacation.  Or sick.  Or out of the building for professional development.

Most of the time we get it right. So, let’s not dwell on the times we don’t.

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Jul-20-2014

The Tipping Point

Posted by Tim under Teacher Evaluations

Several years ago Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called “The Tipping Point.”  This post has absolutely nothing to do with that book, so let’s just get that out up front.

I’m sitting at Starbucks, and I think I just had an epiphany.  I’m not sure since epiphanies don’t come that often or that clearly.  But something clicked in my head, and I knew I had to get it down on digital paper before it went away.

Teachers in Tennessee, and many other places across the country, are being evaluated on every possible thing you can imagine today.  One of the biggest, most controversial tools is that of the Value Added Model, or VAM.  In Tennessee we call that TVAAS.  It is a statistical measurement of prediction that says each student in a teacher’s class should grow by “this amount” from last year’s standardized test to this year’s.  “This amount” is different for each child, of course.  And we don’t really know what “this amount” is when we start.   But that’s not really the epiphany.

Some teachers don’t teach subjects that are tested in a standardized fashion.  Band and choir teachers, for instance, don’t have TVAAS scores.  But the legislature, in their infinite wisdom based on input from our state’s Department of Education in their infinite wisdom, decided that every teacher has to be evaluated by this growth measure whether they teach such subjects or not.

As a result, the band teacher has part of his or her evaluation score based on the TVAAS results from the entire school.  It doesn’t matter that he or she has never met over 50% of the student body, has had no contact with them, and has not impacted their learning one iota.

So, I was standing at the counter at Starbucks (remember that epiphany), and realized that the person at the counter has complete control over whether the entire workforce will receive a tip or not.  At Starbucks, and places like it, tips are shared among the people on the shift.  But customers are totally impacted by the person at the register.  We decide, based on his or her performance, whether or not we are going to let loose of some spare change or a dollar bill or add a tip to our app payment.

The fact that, later, we get a drink that isn’t what we ordered, or they spelled our name wrong on the cup, or forgot something we ordered, or heated something when we didn’t want it heated, or… you get the idea…has no impact on the tip whatsoever.  We’ve already paid it.  And even though someone screwed something up and left us angry or disappointed or vowing never to return, that tip has already been split among everyone.

And that seems a bit unfair to me.

Compare that to a restaurant or cafe where we are waited on by one person.  He or she gets our drinks, takes our order, delivers our food, checks to see if everything is ok, makes sure we got what we ordered, offers us dessert, takes the bill, processes the payment, and then we decide if we will offer a tip and what amount.

That tip goes to that one person and that person alone (usually).  And that seems fair to me.

The tipping point makes all the difference.

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A day or so ago I read this article detailing how data on Facebook is impacted by the number friends one has on the site.  It lays out how Facebook relies on larger numbers of friends to make more accurate predictions about you, your profile, your likes and dislikes.

The idea in the article is that someone with over 850 friends (like me, for instance) has a LOT of data moving and back and forth between my profile and all those friends.  Facebook can crunch numbers based on places we’ve been, sites we’ve visited, posts we’ve “liked,” and much, much  more.  Seeing how all those accounts interact helps Facebook make predictions about what ads will be most beneficial to show me, and help 3rd party vendors decide if I’m a likely candidate for their wares.

But, and this is a significant but, there is a growing trend that shows a decline in younger Facebook users (those with lots and lots of connections) and older users (those with minimal connections).  Senior citizens, a growing demographic on Facebook are often not as tech-savvy as younger users.  Because of this, most tend to friend only people they know in person: family members, church friends, etc.  A larger number of these users have less then 50 friends.  Some have only 10 connections on Facebook.

This presents a problem.  With such little data Facebook is less likely to make correct predictions (read the article for more information).  There is an inequality of data between those with large numbers and those with few.

And, as is so often the case, this got me considering value added scores for teachers.  Can we truly say that an elementary teacher with 22 students is being evaluated by the number crunching in the same way a middle school teacher is who has 135 students?

Can we say that we are truly getting accurate numbers on teacher effectiveness when we do 2 or 3 classroom observations as opposed to, say, 30?  Or 50?  Or just 10?  For instance, the TEAM model requires 2 classroom observations for professionally licensed teachers.  But another model requires many more, yet shorter, classroom visits.  TEAM is based on a score of 1 to 5, while other models are scaled 1 to 4 and then number-crunched to fit a 1 to 5 model.

Is there an inequality of data at work in education circles that, however insignificantly, favors those with large numbers compared to those without?  I’ll let you decide.

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I’ve been giving some very careful consideration to TVAAS lately.  For those of you outside Tennessee (or outside education), TVAAS is the incomprehensible mathematical formula that predicts how a student will perform on state mandated standardized tests from one year to the next.  Through a very complicated formula, TVAAS eliminates all extraneous factors such as poverty, marital state of parents, student disabilities, and  more.  In the end, the score is a representation of the value added to student scores solely as a responsibility of the teacher.

And if you can read that entire paragraph with a straight face, you don’t understand TVAAS.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan.  I like the broad brush strokes painted by data points.  I like to see where the data takes me.  But in Tennessee, we are proposing to go too far by making TVAAS pretty much the sole determinate on whether or not a teacher’s license is renewed.  We’re not talking about whether or not a teacher gets a raise or qualifies for a promotion.  We’re talking about whether or not teachers get to keep their jobs.

So, let’s take a brief look at TVAAS.  At least, let’s look at it as I understand it.  If you read this and know I’m wrong, please leave me comments helping me understand.

This would probably be better as a video, but lets see if I can paint a movie in your mind.

Imagine Billy Bob.  Bill Bob comes into your classroom in the 6th grade. It could be any grade, but we’ll stick with middle school for a moment.  Based on his previous years taking TCAP assessments, TVAAS predicts he will score in a particular range on the 6th grade TCAP if he has an average teacher.  If he moves from the score he made last year to the predicted score for this year (or somewhere in that range), we score that a zero for growth because there was no “value added” to the score by the teacher.

In Tennessee, we rank teachers from 1 to 5.  Scoring a zero on TVAAS is considered “meeting expectations,” and the teacher would score a 3 on his or her TVAAS evaluation.  That’s 35% of the total evaluation score.

So, in your mind (or on a piece of paper), draw a line that’s about 3 inches long.  We’ll call that the distance Billy Bob has to improve in order to achieve a zero for his teacher’s TVAAS.  You got it?  Can you see it?  Good.

Now, make a mark somewhere longer than that 3 inches.  Say 4 inches.  If Billy Bob’s score falls out here, then the teacher has added value to his TCAP score, and the teacher may get a 4 depending on where Billy Bob was when he started.  OK, make another mark about 3 or 4 inches past the line.  If Billy  Bob scores way out here, then the teacher might get a 5 for TVAAS.  That’s really, really good.

Now, go back to your original line and make a mark an inch shorter than the line.  Billy Bob did not meet the prediction, even though he did show growth.  But, because it is “below expectations” the teacher will score a 2 on TVAAS.

All of that sounds pretty plausible.  Even understandable.  We may not know how the formula makes its prediction, but the results are pretty solid on paper.  I can see why people are sucked in to believing that this is an important number.

TVAAS RepresentationSo, let’s take a look at a chart that shows what a single classroom of 20 kids might look like.  On the chart, the starting point of each line is last year’s achievement score and the ending point is the TVAAS prediction for that student.  Numbers are irrelevant for purposes of this visual demonstration.  (click on the image to enlarge it).

As you can see, each child in the class starts at a different point.  Each child has a very different prediction of what “expected growth” means.  Yet, given this information, we can sort of see where we need to place our biggest emphasis in order to get all kids to have greater than expected growth.

There’s just one problem.

We are not shown this data.  We have no idea what the prediction is for each child in our classes.  We are not told how far we have to move them.

Its like playing pin the tail on the donkey.  We teach blindfolded and try the best we can with all kids.

The same thing happens with “gap closures.”  The achievement gap is too great between the “regular” student population and the “free or reduced lunch” population.  We must close that gap.  OK.  Fair enough.  Who are the kids in the “free or reduced lunch” group?  Federal regulations prohibit the school from telling us.  We have no “need to know.”

In elementary grades we would be talking about 20 to 25 kids per teacher for TVAAS.  In middle school it is 130 to 150 kids per teacher.

Does this help you to see the impossible odds we face each year?  Let’s add a few more variables:

  • Billy Bob stayed up too late last night texting his friends when he was supposed to be asleep.  He comes to work very groggy and half-awake.  His first test is English.
  • Sally Mae came to school crying.  Her grandmother was admitted to the hospital with a heart attack late last night.  She just found out about it when she woke up this morning.  Her first test is math.
  • Jimmy Joe is quiet and sullen when he gets to school.  Not his usual personality.  Mom and dad had a big argument last night and dad packed a couple of suitcases and left.  He is devastated, but mom wants his day to be as normal as possible, so he’s at school.  His first test is science.
  • Betty Sue was fine when she got on the bus.  Then her boyfriend broke up with her and changed seats to sit with another girl. He called her some bad names.  She’s taking an English test today.
  • Tommy James is coming back from three days of out of school suspension.  The administrators planned it so he wouldn’t miss a test.  He’s angry because he was wrongly accused by another student.  He makes a plan to “show them” by randomly bubbling in answers to his TCAP test.  His first test is math.

Multiply these scenarios by the possibilities in an elementary school with 600 students or a middle school with 1200 students or a high school with 2500 students.

These events are totally out of our control, yet they will all have huge impacts on standardized test results. And somehow, those results all come down to how good or bad a teacher is.

And so we continue to jump through the flaming hoop of TVAAS hoping this time, maybe, just maybe, we won’t get burned.

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Today is the final day of the ISTE Leadership Forum for 2012 in Indianapolis, IN.  It has been a whirlwind of activities from Sunday until now.  I’ve listened to fantastic speakers, reconnected with some Twitter friends, and been inspired by the great work done across the country and around the world in the arena of technology integration.  The vision for our school has been validated through discussions with others who have been at this longer than we have.  And the problems we’ve encountered are not unique.

Over my morning coffee at Starbucks on Level 2 of the JW Marriott, I began to reflect on some of the things brought out in our opening keynote from Chris Lehmann, Founding Principal of the Science Leadership Academy (SLA).  They weren’t necessarily “new” ideas, as much as ideas placed in context at the right time.

Our school models were designed based on three things people knew and  understood.

The most widely known model is that of the industrial revolution and Ford’s famous assembly line.  We have established a cookie cutter environment where students fit into certain places along the line.  We start them in Kindergarten and move them around the factory until they get to 12th.  If there is a flaw or defect, we hold them back, refine or retool them, and start them down the line again.  Students are grouped by age because it is a convenient way to keep “like” things together in the process.

Less thought of is the model of the church.  In the church, everything important happens up front.  By and large, an expert (pastor, priest, etc) stands at the front of the congregation and gives everyone the knowledge they need.  Even in modern day charismatic movements, congregants are encouraged to “take notes” and “research later.”  Everyone sits in rows whether pews or chairs.  Movement is widely discouraged as it is an interruption to the sage on the stage.

And even less thought of is the model of the prison.  We have captured our kids in rooms and hold them there.  When it comes time to move to a new class, teachers stand guard in the hallways.  During class, the hallways should be cleared and quiet.  And pretty much every school knows those areas where kids might go to “escape” and “hide out,” so we regularly patrol them.

There is nothing inherently wrong in these models.  Some would say they have worked in the past and work fine now.  Others would say they have never worked.  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

One thing I do know from my own experience and my observations of the world around me.  The best learning, the most lasting learning, life changing learning, rarely happens in a classroom with 30 or 50 or 200 people listening to a teacher.

Learning happens in conversation.  It happens in small groups.  It happens in one-on-one interactions.  Why do you think Bible study groups meet at Starbucks?   Is it just because they all like fancy, expensive, watered-down drinks?  Hardly.  They are looking for a place to connect.  To share.  To process.  To reflect.  To be challenged and to challenge.  They have found a place to make meaning.

With today’s technology, and especially in a 1:1 or BYOD environment, students can have meetings anywhere, anytime, in multiple ways.  They can instant message.  Skype.  Face Time.  Post to Facebook or Twitter.  Launch a private room in Today’s Meet.  Share in Edmodo.  You could easily list over one hundred ways students can interact with each other or their teachers.

But one thing is certain (at least to me): Its no longer about the teaching.  Maybe its never been about the teaching.

Its about the learning. 

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This morning I got in the car at the Starbucks on Sand Lake Road in Orlando, FL and set my GPS Navigation system to see how well it did to show me the way home.  It was about 6 AM.  By the time I got on the road, it had estimated my arrival time to be 3:15.  Not bad.

As I drove across the Florida Parkway toward Interstate 75, I noticed that the estimated time of arrival kept decreasing.  When I made my first stop some 3 hours after starting, the arrival time was down to 2:20.  I had cut nearly an hour off my expected time!

Immediately my mind made the leap to TVAAS and using the gain in time as a method of evaluating my effectiveness as a driver.  (Who wouldn’t, right?).

In education, Value Added is a statistical attempt to demonstrate the impact a teacher has on a student’s learning over the course of the year.  A number of variables are taken into account in order to compensate for them (age, sex, socio-economic status, last year’s test results, etc).  The idea is, that any improvement demonstrated by TVAAS is directly correlated to the impact of the teacher.  So, if the student does what was “expected” by the model, that scores a ZERO (as a baseline).  If the student does better than the model predicted, the teacher gets a positive number.  Likewise, if the student scores less than predicted the teacher gets a negative number.  And these numbers are part of what is used to determine if the teacher is effective or not.

No pressure, right?

So, I thought that if I arrived BEFORE my predicted time, that should be a positive number directly related to the driver.  If I arrived LATER THAN my predicted time, then that would be a negative for me.

Positive : Effective.  Negative : Ineffective.

But then it hit me.  In order to arrive early, I would have to give up a couple of fun things I planned to do as part of my trip.  I had planned on stopping at High Falls State Park and taking some pictures of the waterfalls.  I also planned on stopping in Atlanta for lunch.  Those things would bump my arrival time later than the prediction.

So I had a choice.  I could concentrate solely on the numbers and making sure I was “effective” as a driver.  This would mean limiting stops to bathroom breaks and pumping gas.  I would have to scout out locations for both that were easily accessible from the highway to limit my downtime away from the car.  Driving from point A to point B would be the only thing I had time to do!

Or… (and this is huge)… I could choose to both drive from point A to point B AND add my own value to the drive.  I needed the rest I would get from walking around at the park.  It was actually better for my own health to do so.  And, I could find a place to eat that would expand my horizons, get me out of my own little world, and make me a more complete person in the process.

Teachers are faced with this choice every day.  Because TCAP is so important for rating schools, students, and now teachers, it is the end-all of education.  We don’t have time for cultural diversity.  We don’t have time for field trips.  We don’t have time for visiting speakers.  We have these standards to cover.  We have to test the kids to see if they are ready for the test.  Point A to Point B.  That’s it.

But what if I chose the second option in my classroom?  What if I chose to be less concerned with TVAAS and more concerned about creating a well-rounded individual who would be prepared to go out into the world upon graduation?  What if I did emphasize those field trips?  What if I did attempt to expand cultural horizons?  Would I be willing to be considered professionally less effective in order to be individually more effective?

These are the thoughts that went through my mind as I wandered through the woods of the state park.  I thought about them again as I enjoyed lunch at one of my favorite places in Atlanta (the OK Cafe, in case you were wondering).  I chose Plan B.

I arrived at home at 3:55.  Some 40 minutes later than the test data should I should have.

I guess I have to be considered an ineffective driver.

But I was able to put joy back into the journey.  And that, as they say, is that.

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With few exceptions (Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond come to mind), Saturday Night Live has never been as funny as when it first started in the ’70s.  I was an instant fan.  Of course, back then I was young enough to stay up late enough to watch it without relying on re-runs on the montage of clips that outline the Best of Saturday Night Live series.

No one made me laugh more than Gilda Radner.  She had such a large cast of characters in her head, and they will all hysterically funny.  One I looked forward to more than most was that of Emily Litella.  Emily Litella was an elderly woman who did opinion pieces on the Weekend Update skit with Chevy Chase.  She would start with a classic question like, “What’s all this fuss about having too many violins on television?”  For the next three or four minutes she would go off on a rant only to be interrupted by Chevy.  “Miss Litella, that’s violence.  It is too much violence on television.  Not violins.”  Radner would look at him in bewilderment and then say, “Oh!  That’s different!”  And then look straight at the camera, smile, and in her crackly old-woman voice give her signature line.  “Never mind!”

This weekend I must have been channeling Emily Litella.  I had spent a couple of days in Nashville listening to and testifying before the House Education Committee about teacher evaluations.  I’ll admit I’ve been pretty worked up over the fact that we have this great evaluation tool from TAP, but our state has decided to use it in such a way that makes it cumbersome, time consuming, and somewhat meaningless.  Teachers and principals alike are frustrated.  Yet we continue to work through the kinks in hopes that we can, over time, morph this tool into something meaningful.

So, when I read an article in the Tennessean that the Tennessee Board of Education had made a change that would allow principals to double up on classroom observations in-between conferences, I definitely had my Emily Litella moment.

I immediately posted the article on Facebook.  I talked to leadership in our district.  I talked to people at the Professional Educators of Tennessee.  I talked and talked and talked.  I even sent out an email to our local members outlining what the paper said and calmly explaining why this was a bad idea.

Thankfully, on Sunday two or three people channeled Chevy Chase to me.  The Tennessean had it wrong.  Like so many others, the paper obviously does not understand the TEAM Model and wrote a story that was totally inaccurate.  It was suggested that I look at the Board of Education’s website and read the policy change for myself.  And I did.  And I blushed with embarrassment.

The Board of Education had approved allowing principals to do a totally separate observation (like that on the Environment rubric) while also doing the Instructional Observation.  This would, indeed, save by principals and teachers time in the model.  It appears to be a win-win for everyone.

And my immediate response was, “Oh! That’s different!”

And so to those who read my Facebook post, or received an email from me, or sat through rants I must have had over the weekend….

Never mind!

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