Last week I had my final evaluation conference with my principal. I volunteered to do a comprehensive evaluation this year, so it was a long one. And it went well. Now that I’ve had a week to reflect on the whole affair I’ve come up with three conclusions.
First of all, TPEP is a lot better than what we had before. I’m not sure how your district used to do teacher evaluations, but in my district it was a joke. We basically chose our own goals, as well as the evidence by which we would be assessed on those goals. We then collected that evidence and presented it to our principals. It was essentially impossible to fail, as long as you chose a goal that you knew you could achieve, which everyone did.
With TPEP, we’re measured by standards. We have to show that our teaching lines up to best practices. My district uses the Danielson Framework, which is fairly easy to comprehend and seems to spell out pretty much everything a competent teacher should do. Principals now have standards against which to measure teacher performance. Like I said, TPEP is a lot better than what it replaced.
Secondly, TPEP is a lot of work – for principals. My principal spends an average of fifteen hours per week on TPEP-related activities. That’s a lot of time, which begs the obvious question: What is he not doing? What he’s not doing is working with students, talking with parents, eating, sleeping and spending time with his family. We have a part-time dean of students, which helps us here at school, but I worry about the man’s private life. I’m sure the legislature didn’t intend to completely overburden people who were already completely overburdened, but they did.
And that brings me to my third conclusion. Let’s remember that the main purpose for the creation of TPEP was to make it easier to fire ineffective teachers. But at this point I’m not sure TPEP will actually achieve that goal. Consider a situation that I’m aware of: A teacher is ineffective in nearly every aspect of his job. The classroom is disorganized and unsafe. Learning is barely happening. Yet this guy somehow manages to pull it together for both of the required principal observations and is able to document some student growth over the course of the year. What happens?
Not much. According to TPEP, this teacher will probably keep on teaching, for two reasons. First of all, his overall scores won’t look that bad; at least not bad enough for dismissal. Secondly, in order to document just how incompetent this teacher is, the principal would need to spend a ton of time observing and meeting with him. Time that he doesn’t have. The irony of TPEP is that it demands so much of a principal’s time that he doesn’t have any time to fire bad teachers, which was the whole purpose of TPEP in the first place.
TPEP is new. Everything that’s new has glitches. I’m confident that in a few years we’ll work them out.