Near the end of a workshop Tuesday on the Gates-funded Empowering Effective Teachers project, Hillsborough County School Board member Stacy White unloaded about what he considers flaws in the teaching reform effort, which has been hailed as a national model. After assuring school officials that he is all in favor of accountability, he announced:
"You can put me down as a critic of EET as a tool, as it stands in its current form."
Here's more of what he said:
"We need to trust our principals’ leadership, give them the tools that they need to be the best managers that they can possibly be, and have an HR process in place as a safety net.
I’m glad that the topic of SpringBoard [the College Board curriculum] came up… I’ll say it, and this is going to be an uncomfortable thing for some people to hear. But as I see it, we have two entities running this school district. And that’s The Gates Foundation and College Board.
I worry about sustainability with EET...If the
Tampa Bay Times and the
Tampa Tribune spent the kind of money that we’re spending on these peer evaluators in their operations, it wouldn’t take very long before there wasn’t enough money for the papers to go to press.
As I see it, we don’t have any real feedback from our teachers. And I think that’s because the teachers work in a culture within this district where they’re afraid to speak and offer honest, constructive, professional feedback. And I’ll say it right now, that I think that we need a fundamental culture shift within this district.
It still troubles me that a groundbreaking $100-million project is still a work in progress and it feels very experimental to me. For example, we’ve just recently began to work through the issue of all these professionals that don’t fit the mold that we thought that employees being evaluated should fit. It was clearly designed for teachers in a traditional classroom setting.
We took a look at the data where we saw numbers that showed us that certain employees fall within that bottom score range. And I’ve talked about, again, trusting in our principals’ leadership. And I would bet my bottom dollar that the principals in this room today could have told us which teachers would have fallen within that bottom score range.
And I’ll say this: Teachers are members of what is termed as “the creative class.” And I’ve heard a lot of talking in terms of, “you should implement this,” “you should implement that.” Teachers, as members of the creative class – intelligent, thoughtful creative professionals -- can disagree with what needs to be implemented and still be correct. What might work well for that peer evaluator may not be the best solution for that teacher, in that classroom, with that particular group of students.
Teaching is a process that culminates after an entire year of hard work and creativity on the teacher’s part. And our teachers feel oftentimes, and some administrators, for that matter, that what they have is Big Brother coming into the classroom to watch over them. So we have that lack of site based management that I referred to and really, with the peer evaluators, we have a snapshot in time.
Of course I’ve already mentioned that teaching is a process that culminates over an entire year. That’s one issue with that snapshot. The other issue is the dog-and-pony show situation…. That could either be purposely, or it could just be the teacher, just in a state of nervousness, you know. You’ve got a person there from corporate, if you will, that’s not a normal part of that school team and that school family. You can end up inadvertently with a dog-and-pony show. You can end up with a situation where a teacher is just downright resentful that Big Brother’s there and you’re not going to really see an accurate picture of what that teacher looks like.
Let’s not forget about the parents. I’m not suggesting for one minute that parents should have the ability to walk in and evaluate the teacher. But when we get back to that site-based management that I’ve referred to, in other words, putting it in the hands of our very capable principals, they can use parental feedback as one of many pieces of information as they’re going in and evaluating their teachers and running their schools.
And I’ll close by saying that it’s my understanding, in discussion with staff, that we’re currently having difficulty filling some of these peer positions. And I really do feel in my heart that it’s because folks view the peer positions as the man or woman in the black hat. And that’s why you’re not seeing more people apply for the positions."