Teacher Evaluations Don’t Make Sense For Every Hawaii School
Big Island educator on how the Board of Ed is using evaluations to intimidate.
Reading time: 6 minutes.
Dear State of Hawaii Board of Education Members,
The State of Hawaii and the Hawaii District is overwhelming teachers, under-paying them, and using evaluation tools as instruments of harassment and intimidation. This is creating a hostile workplace environment. This is also called workplace violence.
I am a teacher at Pahoa High and Intermediate School. I am quite familiar with America’s rural poor. I grew up attending Title One schools on the mainland; most notably: Nome (Alaska) Elementary School, Schurz Middle School on the Walker River Indian Reservation (Nevada), and Polson High on the Flathead Indian Reservation (Montana), places of America’s rural poor, yet, I am shocked at what is happening to me in Hawaii and the bullying of teachers that Hawaii students, their parents, and the community are all witnessing as a result of targeting teachers.
I want to share with you my experience teaching at a school which, for the past three years, has had no library access for students, no school librarian, and is in one of the poorest communities in the state replete with the problems of such. Students who do not work with encylopedias, atlases, or browse the shelves for the latest young adult novels are being asked to evaluate my performance as a teacher. Scores of middle managers who do not teach are also evaluating my performance and to determine my pay, teaching line, and even if I keep my job in a community that is one of the poorest in the state of Hawaii.
Who is being targeted to solve these overwhelming problems? Teachers. Strict monitoring, micro-managing, and evaluation of teachers — all tied to a 10th grade test score — is seen as the solution. Students are evaluating me by scoring bubble sheets. One question on the sheet: This class is like a happy family. They are expected to bubble-in a rating from highly agree to highly disagree.
I have a master’s degree in English Literature/Creative Writing from the University of Colorado. I am an award-winning writer. I have worked as an Educator in Hawaii since 1995, when I was a Substitute Teacher III for the Windward District. I have worked for the Keaau-Kau-Pahoa Complex since 2003; first at Keaau High School as a Special Education English Teacher for five years and at Pahoa High and Intermediate School as a high school English Teacher for the past four years. Instead my expertise being sought by the complex, district, and state, I am instead being mandated to attend and participate in endless trainings, evaluations, and “professional development” or deemed “insubordinate and therefore lose my job.
My classes are disrupted by numerous observations (five in September alone) by administrators, district teams, and other teachers at the school in their role as “coaches” or “school design team” staff. They are my colleagues and serve in a supervisory position. They make three times my salary. I am being micromanaged to the point of no return. I have lost my focus as an educator.
I do not have time to prepare for upcoming classes because I am so concerned with fulfilling the mandates of the school and district. If I question current policies in department meetings or other meetings, my concerns are belittled and I am put on Pep-T. If I miss meetings, I am put on Pep-T. If my students perform below the 300 score on the H.S.A., I am put on Pep-T. If the Design Team reports to the Principal that my monthly data report tracking stuent progress towards H.S. A. proficiency is not up to par, I am called into the Principal’s office for the potential to be deemed an “unsatisfactory” teacher. If my numerous, mandated revisions of the pacing guide have been deemed unacceptable by the school and district then I am again vulvnerable to an “unsatisfactory” rating as a teacher. If any of the “teams,” principal, or other observers of my classroom and my teaching decide that I am not teaching the standard on my pacing guide for that day, then I am also checked off a list as not teaching to my pacing guide “pace.” This is highly subjective, arbitrary, and capricious. It leaves teachers open to discrimination and workplace bullying, leading to a violent workplace environment.
We are given a copy of our evaluations with items checked off as yes or no. There is a one minutes spot-check to determine the percentage of students off-task. This is not evaluation. This is mandated conformity and a sanctioned Inquisition of teachers.
The state needs to trust that teachers are fulfilling their job duties as professional educators. Teachers are trained at universities. Please respect their education. Working with students, teachers receive valuable experience. Please respect their years of service and compensate them for remaining until the end of the year. Please provide opportunities to teachers that are voluntary, only. Cut out the huge waste of middle management administrators. Please allow teachers to do their jobs. The constant training, retraining, evaluations, observations, workshops, professional development, mandated “pacing guides” and “common assessments” with their grid sheets, charts, and analysis defeats the purpose of educators, that is: teaching individuals and addressing their various learning styles, interests, backgrounds, and skill levels.
Please reject participation in Race To The Top and repeal the No Child Left Behind law mandating high test scores for teacher promotion, teacher retention, and teacher salary increases. Have parents mandated to be involved at the schools. Save money by installing solar panels at every Hawaii School, pay for teacher transportation to and from work, provide a GENEROUS salary package for existing professionals and to attract bright, new teachers, and most important, trust teachers to do their jobs by allowing them the freedom to do their jobs. This does not involve teaching to a 10th grade test.
Moreover, provide GENEROUS direct social services to Hawaii Schools to the many needy students falling through the cracks. Teen pregnancy, school violence, and addiction are problems that RTTT money will not address. We need professional social workers, substance abuse counselors, nurses, police officers, librarians, and welfare staff at the school.
Susan Kay Anderson, M.A.
Teacher, Pahoa High and Intermediate School
15-3038 Puna Road
(808) 965-2150, ext. 111
About the author:Susan Kay Anderson has worked as an archeologist, barista, book store clerk, farm hand, and septic tank service company as a receptionist, among other endeavors. Her writing can be found in: Eleventh Muse, Rain Bird, Square One, Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and on Tom Clark’s website (comments). She blogs at Hawaii Teacher Detective.
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