With Teacher Evaluation Rubrics, Less Is More, Says Mike Schmoker

With Teacher Evaluation Rubrics, Less Is More, Says Mike Schmoker

From the Marshall Memo #436

In this punchy Kappan article, writer/consultant Mike Schmoker criticizes some widely used teacher-evaluation rubrics/frameworks as unwieldy, time-consuming, and anxiety-producing. “No one has asked the obvious questions,” he says: “Does this innovation have a track record? Could it have unintended consequences or could it displace much higher priorities that would guarantee a better education for all, e.g., ensuring that every teacher is furnished with a decent, coherent curriculum, without which effective teaching is difficult or impossible?” 

Teacher evaluation rubrics become even less helpful, says Schmoker, when administrators are asked to conduct multiple full-lesson observations each year, complete with pre- and post-observation conferences, and teachers are expected to cram numerous rubric criteria into each lesson. He bemoans the way some rubrics use “thoughtless, tortured prose that continues to mar the education profession.” Some examples:

  • Teachers must “facilitate content accessibility” by assembling or modifying curricular materials at the “individual and subgroup level.” 
  • Lessons must “accommodate prerequisite relationships among concepts and skills” and “reflect understanding of prerequisite relationships among topics and concepts and a link to necessary cognitive structures”
  • “simultaneous multisensory representations”
  • “facilitation… that results in students’ application of interdisciplinary knowledge through the lens of local and global issues”
  • “solidify learning after constructed experience with clear labels”
  • “articulation of metacognition.”

“I don’t know about you,” says Schmoker, “but I’m very nervous entrusting our children’s futures to people who write – who think – in this fashion.”

What principals and other administrators should look for in classrooms is very simple, he believes: a clear learning objective that’s introduced in a way that arouses anticipation and readiness for learning; multiple short cycles of teaching and modeling, guided practice, and continuous checks for understanding; and each cycle followed by strategic adjustments to instruction. “These well-known, proven elements matter more than anything else,” he says. “And because these concepts are fairly familiar, clear, and few in number, they’re eminently easier to clarify, monitor, and evaluate than the dozens of confusing boxes and bullet points found in popular evaluation frameworks…. Less. Is. More.” 

The fewer criteria principals are asked to manage and evaluate, concludes Schmoker, the more imaginative, focused, and effective teachers will be – and the more successful they will be in preparing students for college and career success.

“The Madness of Teacher Evaluation Frameworks” by Mike Schmoker in Phi Delta Kappan, May 2012 (Vol. 93, #8, p. 70-71), http://www.kappanmagazine.org; Schmoker can be reached at schmoker@futureone.com

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