Sowers received 48-hours’ notice for what she was expected to cover in the taped lesson. But she entered the room knowing nothing about her students or their relative abilities. That meant showtime came with some surprises.
“When you add a 9y plus a negative 3y, what are you going to get?”
“Negative six,” came a scattering of voices.
“Very good. Okay, do you understand why it’s a positive six?”
What no one knows yet is whether any of the video recording will lead to higher student achievement. Debra Reeder, director of employment services for Fairfax schools, which must hire about 1,300 teachers before the next school year starts, said she isn’t sure the time and effort is worthwhile.
“What I would like to see is some data once this has been put into practice in D.C.,” she said. “I’d like to see the data around the success of the program. It looks very time- and work-intensive.”
Kamras acknowledged that the research on the subject is incomplete. “We still think auditioning a candidate is the right thing to do,” he said. “There’s no better evidence of how someone will perform in the classroom than watching that person perform in the classroom.”
Sowers appeared to hit many of the marks D.C. officials look for in the classroom, combining traditional, “teacher-centered” talk at the white board with small-group work in which students collaborate on solving problems. She circulated the room to check individual work and offer different levels of instruction, spending five minutes with one boy who was having difficulty adding and subtracting negative and positive numbers.
“How y’all doing? You understand? Do you guys understand how you’re substituting for the variables?” she asked.
Plucky and confident, Sowers said the District’s process was tougher than others she has encountered. But she didn’t mind it. She expects to hear soon whether she makes the “recommended” pool from which D.C. principals will fill their openings.
“It’s a decent process because it will weed people out,” she said. “Some teachers are in it for the paycheck.”