A while back, while blogging for Education Week, I ripped into the over-hyped marketing for Robert Marzano’s teacher evaluation system.
That system is now in use in districts around the country, and just a few days ago, I heard from an educator familiar with how the system is being implemented. She writes:
With a well-trained principal who sees this as a tool to help struggling teachers identify their weaknesses, and then make suggestions for improvements, this is a useful system because it provides a common vocabulary. For all those idiot principals, this is just another way to play “gotcha.”
Ouch. May you and I never be accused of playing “gotcha” with the teachers we’ve been entrusted to lead.
Here’s the real problem: Any tool that gives us greater potential to be more effective in our work…also places upon us a greater obligation to use that tool responsibly. And we’re not automatically cut out to wield greater power responsibly. We need to work up to it.
Changing the tools does not magically impart the user with the power to use them effectively. I’m OK with a hammer and decent with a staple gun, but heaven help me if someone hands me a full-size nail gun.
As principals around the country gain greater power through new evaluation systems, it’s our job to make sure that we develop the skill and perspective we need to handle this power responsibly and with the best interests of students in mind.