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Thursday, September 18, 2014

What, If Anything, Stands Between You and Highly Effective?

What doesn't stand between a teacher and a rating of highly effective these days?

An AP's interpretation of the Measure of Teacher Practice (or MOTP) can stand between you and highly effective.  It counts for 60 points.  Witness how widely scores can differ in districts; compare Scarsdale with Pleasantville.  In the worst case scenario, vindictive administrators have left you in the land of ineffective or developing.  But even if your administrator is not vindictive, you may suffer if your administrator buys into Danielson's mantra that the realm of highly effective can only be visited.  It is not permanently habitable.  Could it be that there is not enough oxygen for the brain there?

Perhaps you teach in a discipline in which perfection is almost impossible.  Math teachers have more experience giving out grades of 100%.  After all, what else can you do if all the problems are all right?  In disciplines that rely upon essay writing, like my own, it's rare to find a 100% paper.  So, I'm guessing that teacher scores of 60 might come more easily from APs used to teaching in disciplines in which perfection is more likely.  Without a MOTP of 59 or 60, it seems highly effective would be out of reach for most teachers given student test scores.  

Perhaps your home life stands between you and a rating of highly effective.  You may be a most excellent teacher, but there are components of Danielson that called upon you to contribute to your school community (Domain 4).  Perhaps you have a young family and cannot find the time to coach a team, attend conferences or run a school program.  Perhaps you did some of these things when you were younger, free of familial obligations.  Perhaps you have no interest in any of these things.  Perhaps you prefer teaching in the classroom.  Perhaps that's why you became a teacher.

Perhaps it is the scores of your students which stand between you and highly effective.  Perhaps your MOTP made it into the highly-effective range, but student test scores bounced you down some steps.  Is it your fault?  Most certainly, yes, but only in the sense that you are a scapegoat.  Imagine the joy when the Common Core tests stand like guillotines mounted on the scaffold of most disciplines.

Will merit pay ever work?  Wander back to Rheeland in D.C.  It will bring out the worst in people.  It will breed sycophants, corrupt bargains and mass cheating among the greedy, desperate and immoral.

Should you let your rating define your professionalism?  No. Should you work harder to achieve the near impossible if you're not already there?  No.  What might you do?  Look hard at your students and inside yourself and ask, "How am I doing?"  Talk to your colleagues and share ideas.  Be honest and the data you find will be far more meaningful to you than any electronically generated statistical garbage.  You know what?  You may just be highly effective.  They just might not know how to measure it!


  1. My former AP at Bergtraum always used that line "highly effective is a place we visit." If that's true, then shouldn't highly effective be off the scale? Like bonus points? Or why have it at all? If you make a scale from 1 to 4 and say you are evaluated on this scale, then 4 should be attainable, shouldn't it? And I still don't understand how this evaluation system prevents an administrator from out and out lying about what goes on in the classroom, especially now since it is at the evaluator's discretion whether or not the observation will be recorded.

  2. I agree that statistics provides the veneer of objectivity while subjectivity still figures in at nearly every angle.