I have just finished reading Randi Weingarten’s essay in the book that expands on the documentary, “Waiting for Superman.” Ms. Weingarten is the president fo the 1.5 million member American Federation of Teachers. I concede that American schools contain some very gifted teachers; yet I do believe that they also provide a safe harbor for the merely mediocre, the inefficient and incompetent who tarnish the profession.
Ms. Weingarten mainstains that the evaluation system is flawed because of the method of evaluation: “An administrator sitting in the back of the classroom for a few minutes, a few times, in the first few years of teaching.The teacher then receives feedback at the end of the semester or the end of the year.” I can tell you that her description is misleading at best.
Having been an administrator in several public school districts in Connecticut, I participated in the evaluation process. I was the one responsible for such evaulations. I would make unannounced visits to both tenured and non-tenured teachers, whether or not they were scheduled for evaluation that year. For those who were scheduled for a full evaulation, I had a more complete schedule. I visited each teacher several times during the school year, staying for the entire class period. I provided feedback and suggestions each time. In at least two instances, the teachers were clearly not fulfilling their duties. Everyone knew it: the students, the fellow teachers, and the parents. Yet these individuals received the same salaries as the other teachers and suffered no consequences for their ineptitude. In fact, one teacher actually took sick leave during my evaluation process, claiming he had an ulcer. The end result: No longer wishing to be associated with a “profession” that refused to acknowledge problems and repair them, I resigned and established my own educational center. The incompetent teacher returned after my departure and eventually retired with a substantial pension. “The dance of the lemons” continues.