New Marzano system takes over the evaluation process at FHC

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Madison Szczepanski, Staff Writer

The idea of the administrators of FHC evaluating teachers is to make sure teachers are accomplishing the main goal of being an instructor: having the students learn. The administration is in the process of briefly visiting classrooms during a class period and observing for around 10-20 minutes. This is the third year of using the Marzano system and there are still some changes for teachers to get used to as to how long the administrators spend in the classrooms and how they are scaled.

“In the past, an administrator would come in and sit in your classroom for one hour and observe what you do and mark off things that are good, mark off things that might need to be improved,” said Chad Scholten, AP Environmental Science teacher. “Last year and this year what they are going to do is instead of sitting in your class for a whole hour, they will come in for 20 minutes at the most, but several different days.”

As a teacher, I could have made the best lesson plan in the world, I could have just nailed it, but if the students didn’t learn it, did it really help?”

— Hillary Baker

The difference in the amount of time spent in the teacher’s classroom can be looked at from a positive or negative perspective depending on the class type, or maybe just the teacher’s preference.

“I like [shorter time spent in classroom] better because if you come in in one class period you will maybe only see one or two things,” Scholten said. “But if you come in three different class periods, you are going to see a lot of different variety; so, I like the fact that they are coming in more often for less time.”

English teacher Kelli Potts wishes the visits from administrators were longer.

“I think that there are goods and bads about [the teacher evaluation process],” Potts said. “At any job, people get evaluated. I think that [the evaluation process] is effective, [but] I think it is hard when administrators come in and they only see a very small part of what you do.  They don’t see the whole lesson or even your whole week. They don’t see anything such as the planning that goes into your lesson or what you do at home.”

Potts and Scholten both appreciate the constructive criticism that is fed to them from the administrators. They have found that the evaluation process makes it easier for them to adjust their lessons plans accordingly to what needs to be improved.

“Teachers never get time to sit and reflect [and] think, ‘What was good about my lesson? What do I need to tweak?’” said assistant principal Hillary Baker. “As a teacher, I could have made the best lesson plan in the world [and] I could have just nailed it, but if the students didn’t learn it, did it really help?”

Baker emphasized that when evaluating and asking students their opinions, rather than asking what they are doing, she makes sure to ask what they are learning.

“Students [should be able to] articulate ‘What am I learning?’ not ‘What am I doing?’” Baker said. “I won’t go into a classroom and ask a student, ‘What are you doing?’ As the student, [it should be] clear to you, the purpose of today’s lesson.”

Principal Steve Passinault also believes that one of the most important things that he looks for while sitting in a classroom is how the students are learning and reacting to the material being taught in class.

“There are categories of things that we look for [when evaluating],” Passinault said, “and the most important thing is asking if the students engaged in what they are learning. There is a connection between the rapport that the teacher establishes with the students in the classroom and the engagement of the students in their learning.”

Administrators also look for a use of the learning targets and scale in the classroom. Studies tend to show that the students will comprehend what they are learning when the goal for the daily lesson is clearly written out for them.

“We believe strongly that when students understand what the goal is for that day then they will understand what they are learning,” Passinault said. “[The learning goal] also helps students take ownership in their own learning. They ask themselves, ‘Did I meet that goal?’”

While being in the classroom and observing, the administration looks at anything from the teacher’s relationships with the students to how professional the teacher is while interacting with students on their own.

“The relational pieces [of teaching] is critical. As a [former] teacher, I knew that if I developed a relationship with that student, then they were more likely to learn,” Baker said.