Saturday, May 7, 2011

I just came away from reading about the latest scheme from the educational industrial complex for evaluating teachers. Thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the wonders of technology a 360 degree camera records everything going on in  a classroom in real time, tie this to a helmet cam on the teacher’s head and implanted microchips in student’s arms and administrators will be able to collect massive data streams to evaluate teacher effectiveness. It will be just like a reality show for your boss' enjoyment. 
Okay, there aren’t implants just yet, we need an amendment to the Patriot Act for that or at least a really good parental permission form, and  the helmet cam is still in development but the all seeing camera is real.  And the teacher does wear a microphone so that anything they say to a student is recorded. This will prove handy in those lawsuits that arise from a foolish teacher telling Johnny to his face that he really isn’t working up to his potential. 
Now the authors admit that even with the video there is “that pesky human subjectivity--whoever is watching the video is interpreting what he or she sees.” but "these kinds of technologies are going to be very attractive, given the demands on administrators these days.” Hopefully cash strapped districts will be able to hire experienced  observors to augment the administraotrs. Perhaps they can hire off duty security guards who watch the shoplifter cameras at Walmart. They can be up in the booth producing objective evaluations of teacher effectiveness. 
If you  are one of those worrying Willy’s don’t. Because as the authors say “these cutting-edge systems are potentially game changing technology, but less for teacher evaluation than for supporting teacher reflection.” This means that at the end of the day you can review the tapes for the big game tomorrow. Between making dinner and putting the kids to bed you can see who was texting or gazing off into space and adjust accordingly. 
I’m not worried but I will be the first to admit that in my fourteen years of teaching I haven’t  given 110% everyday. Just the other day a student  tied me up for almost 15 minutes talking. Not a word of it was related to the curriculum or the day’s lesson. The rest of the class was hopelessly off task. Now contrary to what instant replay would show,  we weren’t just killing time. It turns out this student’s father is about to go to jail and the mother is already there.  The student wasn’t sure where they were going to live. I didn’t have an answer  but I do wonder just where that sort of conversation fits in discussions about teacher effectiveness.


  1. But Todd, I DO watch my classroom videos to reflect on my teaching between making dinner and putting the kids to bed. (Just kidding--really!) Clearly, video reflection is a valuable professional development tool, but could have the potential to be abused.

    I found the following quotation in that article even more alarming, "In the comprehensive management system, student performance on every lesson is captured by the system, Revenaugh points out. 'Not just every lesson,' she says, 'every piece of every lesson.'" How could anyone possibly have time to monitor 'every piece of every lesson'?

    Great job on taking that article and turning it into a funny and extremely touching post. Hey, I'm off to Mother's Day breakfast!

  2. You raised some great points here! We can spend all our time scrutinizing over every second of every lesson for every class. But why? And you're right about all those times we just talk to and connect with our students. I think that's more important than whatever content they might have learned that period. I like the way we use video to view each other's lessons and see what students are learning by looking at samples of their work.