In this age of bureaucracy and accountability , I see way too many educators submit to the idea that some external system will determine who they are as educators and what their schools are, as well. In Pennsylvania we have recently moved from “making AYP” to School Performance Profile (SPP), an accountability measure that “grades” schools on a scale of 0-100 (with the possibility of up to 7 “bonus” points – yeh, how ridiculous is that?). For educators, we have started the Educator Effectiveness System which provides an overall score for individual teachers and, coming this year, principals. You can view the Classroom Teacher Rating Form and the Principal Rating Form to see just how limited this system is. Despite such nonsense, I see teachers and school leaders believing that these are the “new” systems that will define their effectiveness as teachers and school leaders.
Not only are the systems flawed, but the thinking of educators is flawed…..and dangerous. It’s silly to think that as an educator I’m a 3.1. Really? That’s not very nuanced feedback, is it? Yet too many of us are OK with that and continue on with our lives, unchanged. It’s dangerous thinking because we surrender our agency to define ourselves and our schools. In the age of technology saturation, it is now easier than ever for us to take control and play a major role. Two suggestions for educators and schools to start, getting beyond limited government systems…
- CONNECT – Every educator should be connected on social media and engaging in learning with other educators. When we do this, we build a positive digital footprint, one that not only represents our learning but demonstrates our ability to be reflective, thoughtful and collaborative about our practice. Connecting defines who we are. There are all sorts of tools that can be used to connect. Twitter and Twitter chats are a great starting point.
- SHARE – Share what you are doing and what you are thinking. Share when you learn something so others can learn along with you. Share about your school and your classroom! Not only for yourself, but for your students. Model creating a positive digital footprint and provide them with opportunities to develop their own as learners. You can use the same social media tools you use to connect or you might start a blog and get your own domain name.
I’m not saying we need to get rid of annual evaluations or systems of school accountability (although the current systems in PA are hardly effective or adequate). But let’s not let these external systems be the only components that define who we are as educators. WE should (and can) be the ones that define who we are and what are schools are. Not some external system interested only in boiling down all that we do to a single digit (or may 2 or 3). We do need to “play the game,” but we can make enough noise to drown out the din of the bureaucracy. Sadly, though, we haven’t reached the tipping point in education where we’ve taken control from the bureaucrats and taken ownership ourselves. That requires new learning and effort, and most educators, sadly, aren’t ready for that.
For those who are taking ownership, connecting and sharing, let’s take our question a step further and ask our students – Who or what defines you as a learner? The state and it’s standardized tests? I see a pattern here….