Article Review #2:

It’s Time to Rethink Teacher Supervision and Evaluation

By: Kim Marshall

Printed in Phi Delta Kappan v. 86 no. 10 (June 2005)

p. 727-735


Written by Glen Dawursk, Jr., April 9, 2007

The premise of this article is simply that the status quo method of supervising and evaluating teachers in not effective and needs to be significantly overhauled.  Kim Marshal was a principal for 32 years in the Boston Public schools and has seen first hand the standard process of teacher supervision and evaluation.  Now as a district administrator and teacher of instructional leadership, he recommends a change toward a broader focus strategy which will more significantly improve the teacher’s skills and the learning process.


Marshall identifies 10 reasons why the standard supervision and evaluation of teachers and classroom instruction is flawed.  They are:

  1. Principals evaluate only a tiny amount of teaching – He suggests that most principals only see .1% of a teacher’s actual classroom instruction time.
  2. Microevaluations of individual lessons don’t carry much weight – He contends that that the process really has little effect on the classroom and is just a mandatory procedure.
  3. The lessons that principals evaluate are often atypical – Marshal claims that this one or two time yearly visit is a “distortion” of what really goes on in the classroom.
  4. Isolated lessons give an incomplete picture of instruction – He states that one lesson is not a good demonstration of meeting state standards or learning; rather, he encourages the evaluation of “unit plans” as a more realistic evaluation.
  5. Evaluation almost never focuses on student learning – He states due predominately to teacher union restraints, “principals have little choice but to focus on teaching performance versus learning results, on chalkboard razzle-dazzle versus deep understanding, and on beautiful bulletin boards versus demonstrated proficiency.” (Marshall , 730)
  6. High-stakes evaluation tends to shut down adult learning – He suggests that pressure upon the teacher due to the planned evaluations make it more difficult for a teacher to accept criticism, see their need for improvement and to learn from the evaluation.
  7. Supervision and evaluation reinforce isolation – He feels that teachers choose to work predominately by themselves and do not desire to work together.
  8. Evaluation instruments often get in the way Marshall feels that most evaluation tools are intended to “make a case” for dismissal rather than as an instrument to improve instructional competency.
  9. Evaluations often fail to give teachers “judgmental” feedback – The author states that most evaluations are “unlikely to motivate a mediocre teacher to improve – or spur a good teacher on to excellence.” (Marshall, 731)
  10. Most principals are too busy to do a good job on supervision and evaluation – He claims there are three different types of principals: saints – those who follow all the evaluation rules and are encompassed them, cynics – who do the minimal evaluation work, but believe that they have no real effect on a teacher’s improvement, and sinners – principals who simply avoid evaluations at all.


Marsall makes a clear case for change, but does not stop at simply complaining.  He offers a significant plan for change – one which goes against the common district mandated process for supervision and evaluation. He states his theory as follows: “The engine that drives high student achievement is teacher teams working collaboratively toward common curriculum expectations and using interim assessments to continuously improve teaching and attend to students who are not succeeding.” (Marshall, 731)  He claims that this thought process is “countercultural” but necessary if we are to make a difference in the education of today’s students.  He emphasizes a shift from periodic individual lesson plan evaluations toward regular unannounced evaluations of teacher teams and curriculum units.  He further promotes the need for regular “real” conversations with team teachers using real data, strong direction and suggestions, and succinct evaluation rubrics.  Marshall believes strongly that this will allow the principal to orchestrate school-wide improvement versus a bedlam of paperwork and frustration.


Finally, the article gives twelve steps toward linking supervision and evaluation to achievement results in a high school environment. They are:


1.     Make sure the basics are in place.

2.     Decide on the irreducible elements of good teaching.

3.     Systematically visit all classrooms on a regular basis.

4.     Give teachers prompt, face-to-face feedback after every classroom visit.

5.     Require teacher teams to develop common unit plans and assessments.

6.     Require teams to give common interim assessments.

7.     Have teams report student learning after each unit.

8.     Arrange for high-quality feedback on lessons for teachers.

9.     Create a professional learning culture in the school.

10. Use short observation visits to write teacher’s final evaluations.

11. Include measure of student learning gains in teachers’ evaluations.

12. Use a rubric to evaluate teachers.  (Marshall, 732-735)


The article offered a clear description of issues revolving around the standard usually district approach to supervision and evaluation of teachers.  I especially liked that that the author did not just simply present the issues, he also offered plausible solutions.  While I did not detail the solutions in this review, the article gives paragraphs of additional information, examples and justification for each assertion.  As a teacher and now administrator, I agree with Marshall’s assessment of the “one shot” approach to classroom evaluations and the undue pressure put-upon the teacher for those “one shot” visits.  For many teachers, the approach seems to be the “do-or-die determinator” of whether they will be re-hired.  For most teachers, that visit is not a good reflection of what learning really goes on in the classroom.  The recommendation to visit the classroom unannounced on a regular basis is the approach I have been using this year as I evaluate teachers.  It gives me a better idea of how the teacher teaches a lesson and overall classroom management as it seems less staged than the planned visit.  Of course, a planned formal evaluation is still required by the school district on a bi-yearly basis; however, the regular unannounced visit allows for the administrator to see if the teacher is improving or possibly struggling in any area.  I also find that my visitations keep the students at bay as they also are never know when to expect me -- as I am observing them as well. 


I would strongly recommend the article as it offers a plethora of discussionary concerns and redeeming ideas for any new principal.  My only concern is the “reality” of the process for change.  School districts are notorious for being slow toward change.  Their requirements for accountability often belabor change and can easily tire a passionate principal from pursuing Marshall’s utopian process.  I would initially encourage the use of as many of the “team” processes and incorporate a regular impromptu visitation schedule while seeking the overall modification.  This would allow for an acceptance of the change and allow for a customized tweaking of the procedures within the needs of the particular school.  This will also change the perception of supervision and evaluation as judgmental criticism from the principal, toward a team learning opportunity for teacher growth and improved student achievement.