Posted by: cornvillenutmeg | October 3, 2012

Master Teachers as Evaluators

Standardized tests won’t do it (and by the way for a superb explanation of why, check out and supervisors are too removed from actual teaching to do it, teacher unions too paranoid about Management cynically taking advantage of every opportunity to wring every last ounce of work and blood out of teachers without paying them a living wage, students too self-interested, and parent the same.  So, who is left to turn to for a meaningful evaluation of teachers?  Well, how about teachers?

In the rest of the evil, money-grabbing, greedy, unfeeling world – which is to say any country where any rational person might want to live – on leaving school and entering the workplace, a new hire soon gets to know well an old hire who both trains and evaluates the greenhorns.  Such old hires are experienced, respected, and trusted.  The mind turns naturally to the so-called trades:  professions such as plumbers, electricians, brick-layers;  but the practice is essentially the same in virtually all other professions:  think medical interns, newly minted JDs, recent MBA graduates, rookie police officers and firefighters, boot recruits in the armed services.  Any successful enterprise from the Targets of the world to Habitat for Humanity uses experienced workers who are respected and admired by their colleagues to train and evaluate neophyte workers.


During the penultimate year of my tenure at my first school, the Headmaster created the title of Master Teacher.  Then he elevated a handful of faculty to be the first corps of Master Teachers. While it was so that all of us in the faculty had always tacitly acknowledged them as the master teachers among, the Headmaster’s actions conferred official status.  Of course, each discipline had its own department chairman, but while the chairmen were often consulted on matters of hiring and letting go, mainly their tasks were secretarial and administrative in nature.  The newly minted Master Teachers, however, were, among other things, directed to take a hand in evaluation.  It was a system that worked well in all respects, for before any evaluating or supervising happened, the Master Teachers took under their wings their junior colleagues.  By the time any criticism of the new teachers entered into the dynamic, the relationship between Master and apprentice had been established as that of trusted mentor and mentee.

Would this system work in Public Education?  Of course it would.  And besides, in a limited, informal, but no official way,  it does already.  Almost any teacher new to a school – freshly graduated from teacher college or not – will gravitate toward an experienced teacher with whom he feels a connection.  (And if he doesn’t  that should set off alarm bells, for it is in the nature of good teachers to want to learn to be better teachers.  Arrogance is not always a bad thing, but one needs first to earn the right to it .)

While to take the informal and admittedly hit or miss de facto system that already exists and make it both formal and official could be simple and easy,  the culture of Public Education would resist that path in favor of a recondite, prolonged, top-to-bottom-to-top approach.  A system wide committee would be formed by the Superintendent.  After school meetings would be held (which are, trust me, the kiss of death to any initiative;  no teacher in his right mind ever willingly or happily or productively sits through an after-school meeting).  Sooner or later what would almost certainly become known as The Master Teacher/Mentor Pre-Tenure Teacher Professional Development and Assessment Initiative (MTMPTTPD) would become part of the collective bargaining process which in all likelihood would mean that it would end up on the bargaining room floor, sacrificed in the interest of adding an extra Teacher Development Day to the next contract in return for a pro-rated additional day’s earnings in lieu of the union’s giving up its demand for a three and half percent raise coupled with no additional days to the  teacher work year. 

But maybe I’m wrong.  Anyone out there in a PTO?  Care to propound the proposal?


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