Article Review #2:
It’s Time to Rethink Teacher Supervision and
By: Kim Marshall
Printed in Phi Delta Kappan v. 86 no. 10 (June 2005)
Written by Glen Dawursk, Jr., April 9, 2007
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:
- Principals evaluate only a tiny amount of
teaching – He suggests that
most principals only see .1% of a teacher’s actual classroom instruction
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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)
- 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.
- Supervision and evaluation reinforce isolation – He feels that teachers choose to work
predominately by themselves and do not desire to work together.
- 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
- 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)
- 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
Finally, the article gives twelve steps toward
linking supervision and evaluation to achievement results in a high school
environment. They are:
Make sure the basics are in place.
Decide on the irreducible elements of good teaching.
Systematically visit all classrooms on a regular
Give teachers prompt, face-to-face feedback after
every classroom visit.
Require teacher teams to develop common unit plans
Require teams to give common interim assessments.
Have teams report student learning after each unit.
Arrange for high-quality feedback on lessons for
Create a professional learning culture in the school.
Use short observation visits to write teacher’s final
Include measure of student learning gains in
Use a rubric to evaluate teachers. (Marshall, 732-735)
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.
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.