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How to help D.C. teachers make the grade

Monday, March 21, 2011; 8:19 PM

The March 18 front-page article "D.C. teacher evaluation becomes a delicate conversation" related how teacher Clay Harris's evaluator applied nine standards to Mr. Harris's teachings and rated the latter "ineffective" and "minimally effective." The evaluator interpreted Mr. Harris's flexible teaching style as a change of objective. His rejoinders to Mr. Harris's comments were: "I hear what you're saying" and "You've had good ideas, really." Mr. Harris was at first apologetic, then incredulous and finally exasperated. I would call the evaluation itself ineffective.

Instead of unannounced observations of teachers, wouldn't it be more expedient, and, pardon me, effective to place greater emphasis on paid professional development workshops? Workshop facilitators versed in IMPACT's standards could explain the nine standards, then group the teachers, just as evaluator Eric Bethel suggested Mr. Harris do with his students. Teachers as a team would then detail and implement standards-based plans in their own subjects that could be tailored to children's learning styles. After teachers completed the workshop, there could be follow-up - announced - observations.

Especially after former schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's reign, the District owes its teachers a deeper education in their new standards. If it provided that, many teachers wouldn't misunderstand it as a "to-do list" or fear it as a sword hanging over their heads, or, if they could keep their jobs, be forever labeled as "ineffective." But what do I know? I'm just a teacher.

Wendy Montanari Kilpatrick, Alexandria

The writer is a teacher in the Fairfax County Public School district.

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