Category Archives: Series: Teacher Evaluation (TPEP)

I Do NOT Choose Misery… I Choose the TRUTH

On October 9, 2015, 2400 Spokane School District employees sat in front of a screen in each of their respective buildings. They received 7 hours of training via a Webinar and were given a 30 minute lunch. Teachers were told with force the day before, “You must be in your seats by 8:00 a.m.  You may not be late.  You will be given 30 minutes to eat.  It is highly recommended you bring a lunch and do not leave the building for your lunch because you will be expected to be in your seats promptly at the end of the 30 minutes.  You may not leave until 3:30. The District is keeping very close tabs on this time schedule.”

The bulk of the training was around TPEP, the new teacher evaluation system. Teachers sat before a screen and listened to district personnel explain to them the requirements of being an “applying” or “innovative” teacher. The message was clear that teachers needed several data points to prove their students had mastered certain skills and concepts. Amplify was listed as one of those data points. Amplify Testing is now being subtly pushed to be used and linked to teacher performance.  If you are interested in Amplify’s history you can read my chronological compilation here: Amplify… A Modern Day Medusa.

It must be realized the tremendous pressure educators are under. I watched the look on many teachers faces throughout the day. Their training, their creativity, their innovative abilities, their love of children, their knowledge of child development… is being discounted and ignored. It must be understood how the mandates from the Federal, State, and District Level are impacting classrooms. Understand, if anyone desires to see changes in our schools, attendance at school board meetings, willingness to speak at school board meetings, and voting in new school board directors who are willing to be out in the schools, listening and learning what educators and children need… will ALL be critical.

The Cost

I also did some math. 2400 hundred district employees were paid for attending this training. Considering per diem rates range from $222.00 to $366.00 a day per employee, I multiplied 2400 X $300 (close average). It cost the school district somewhere around $720,000 dollars for this one day training. This is tax payer dollars at work. Many educators felt demeaned, devalued, and slapped in the face.

I was mandated to be at this training although I am not on TPEP and have received much of the same training over the past three years. I was told I had to be at the training so I would “know what the teachers are going through and know how to help them.”  With all due respect, I am quite clear on exactly what teachers are going through at this time in Public Education.  I’m in their classrooms.  Their autonomy to do what is right for children is being squelched as they are handcuffed with the Federal, State, and District mandates.

The Hidden Cost

The morale of the teachers.

The Parallel Between SBA and TPEP

As I sat obediently listening, my mind drew a parallel. Educators are spending hours on test prep. This is robbing children of precious instructional hours to get ready for a state evaluation: The SBA (Smarter Balanced Assessment). Yesterday robbed teachers of planning time to prep and design quality lessons for children. This training deprived teachers from receiving professional development they personally needed to improve their instructional practice. Why? To prep the educator for the state teacher evaluation system: TPEP.

The full focus has become TEST PREP,  EVALUTION PREP and DATA.

NoteSome teachers did need the training on TPEP yesterday.  They are new to this evaluation system and appreciated the time.  The presenter did the best she could with what she was mandated to deliver to us.  I am positive she worked hard. However, many of us, would have preferred to stay home and save the tax payer the per diem pay, OR had the option to choose other professional development.  Many of us have sat through these Webinars and Power Points on TPEP multiple times over the past three years.  Not only was it a bad form of Professional Development, it was not necessary to insult our intelligence and assume we needed the repetition.  Many of the slides in the Power Point were read to us. We sat.  We listened.


“Good boys and girls”.

Teachers thinking for themselves

What are Teachers Expected to be Learning and Implementing in the Classroom Right Now?

Let’s examine a list at the Elementary Level:

  1. Journeys (Year Two of the adopted ELA program, but many are first year teachers or new to the district)
  2. EngageNY Math (You may see Eureka at the bottom of the worksheets.  Same Same.  This is a math program that has not been researched.  It is not differentiated.  It is scripted.  It does not align with any mathematical instructional best practices regarding how children learn mathematics.  It does not meet the needs of special needs children.  It does not meet the needs of English Language Learners.  It does not meet the needs of children who enter the classroom several grade levels behind.  Many teachers are floundering trying to implement this program in ways children can access the math)
  3. AVID (A College and Career Readiness Program)
  4. Why Try (A Mindset Program)
  5. Data Study (Five Schools have hired a .5 Data Coach.  The teachers involved in the study are required to attend many additional meetings as well as implement the requirements of the program.)
  6. Amplify Testing (Teachers will need to learn this new testing program, learn new rubrics (designed by non-educators), score performance tasks, enter in the student data, have additional meetings to interpret the data, and include it in their TPEP, teacher evaluation worksheets.)
  7. New Science Standards, Topics and Kits
  8. Social Studies Standards (currently with no program, but with a new program coming soon.)
  9. A new Extended Day Program in which children are in and out of the classroom daily as learning has become more and more compartmentalized and teachers have less and less solid blocks of time to teach a consistent cycle of lessons.  (Something required by TPEP)
  10. TPEP (The Teacher Evaluation System)  which involves 4 Domains, 8 Criterion, 62 Elements, various Components, Segments, and Driving Questions.
  11. And there is more…

Survival Mode

Ever Wonder Why Teachers are Choosing to Leave the Profession?

Ever Wonder Why There is Talk of a Looming Teacher Shortage?

As I drove away from the training the following was spinning through my mind:

Data Data Data. The world will not turn without data. Children can’t learn without data. People can’t eat without data. Schools can’t function without data. Teachers can’t lesson plan without data.  Teachers don’t know how to teach without data.

Data… how did we ever survive before data?

Bill Gates, in the Road Ahead, stated simply, “Data is power, he who controls the data has the power.” That was 10+ years ago. Kids are being tracked cradle to career. They now have the platforms (Amplify to name one) to forecast children’s capabilities for the state labor force… whether scientific or manual. Teachers are not to teach as an art, but to teach to keep the cogs in the machine moving.

My “favorite” message from the training, “We (The District) need your data so we can help you grow.”

Right behind that one, my second “favorite”, was the fifth norm presented at the beginning of the all day Webinar: MISERY IS OPTIONAL.

Hmmmm…  first time I’ve encountered this “norm” in any meeting I have ever attended in 26 years of being an educator.  This begs the question, “Why would The District front load the 6 hour Webinar with this norm?”

Think about it.

Ever read or watched The Divergent Series?  Or how about The Hunger Games… and President Snow of The Capital?

I do NOT choose misery. I choose the TRUTH.

“People are getting rich from data. This is a money grab. How many start ups and software companies are producing apps for CCSS (Common Core State Standards) and Test Prep? More than we can keep up with. They are still perpetuating the lie that US kids are behind the global curve. It’s a crock of $×÷$÷!” -A Spokane Parent (Sent to me October 9, 2015)

I’m Divergent.

I was educated Pre-Common Core, and was taught to think outside the four corners of the text.

The result: I think outside the four corners of the screen too.

Will you?

Passionately Submitted,


References:Spokane Assessment

  1. Spokane School District is not shy about Data Collection.  Meet “Quasar’… The “never ending forming galaxy of data!”

Spokane School District’s Assessment Page: Assessment and Program Effectiveness

    2.  What is the Core Really For?

A Tale of Two Teachers… Comparing Teachers based on High Stakes Test… Lunacy

Comparing teachers based on one high stakes test that happens on one day in 180 days is an absolute form of lunacy.  Furthermore, linking teacher’s evaluations, even 10% of the evaluation,  on the high stakes test… still… another form of lunacy.

Looney Tunes 8

Here’s why:

Teacher A:  The school year starts with a class of 25 third graders.   Breakfasts in their bellies, clean clothes on their backs, and a night of solid sleep.   The initial screener shows 85% of them are already at standard in both reading and mathematics.   Twenty-one of them Caucasian, one African-American, two Hispanic, one Pakistani. Three students qualify for free and reduced lunch.  One student has an IEP and receives special education support services. Their parents from the middle to upper class consisting of educators, doctors, lawyers, etc…  The majority of homes have more than one computer, at least one iPad, and the children’s bedrooms are filled with books.  These children had an average of 1,000 more hours of lap time reading with their parents before they entered Kindergarten as compared to Teacher B’s students.  One thousand hours.   Through Kindergarten to this initial year of 3rd grade, the hours of time with text at home continues to far exceed Teacher B’s students.

Teacher B:  The school year starts with a class of 25 third graders.  Empty stomachs until they arrive to school 30 minutes early to eat breakfast, some with cleaned clothes, others wearing the same outfit from the day before with aromas of cigarette smoke wafting from them, and many without the necessary sleep to cognitively engage.   The initial screener shows 20% of the students are at standard in reading and mathematics.   Six of the students Marshallese, three students are refugees from Sudan and speak zero English, one Arab speaking student,  and two Russian speaking students with limited English, three Hispanic students, and ten Caucasian students.  All 25 students qualify for free and/or reduced lunch.  Many of these students also qualify to take home a grocery sack filled with meals on Fridays so there is food in their homes for the weekend.   Many of these students parents have combined incomes of less than $10,000-$20,000 a year.   It is rare to hear of any of the students who have computers at home, let alone an iPad.   They have had very little time on the lap of their parents reading, and their vocabulary substantially below Teacher A’s students.   Many students live in shelters, or have moved multiple times from apartment to apartment, and some homeless.  Stories from their lips of mommies and daddies in jail, or a night spent sleeping under a bridge until they can get into a shelter, empty cupboards, exposure to drugs, and parents losing their jobs… run rampant in Teacher B’s classroom.  Pretty Fairy Princess or Superman themed individual bedrooms rare, let alone a bookshelf to hold a book.

Looney Tunes 5The Clincher:

1) Teacher A and Teacher B both are expected, and may I venture to say are “required”, to get their students to standard by March/April as measured by the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) in which is taken on a computer.

2) This means the two teachers have September – March (maybe April) to teach and ensure all of their students are at standard by the testing date.   This is 6.5 – 7.5 months of instruction….. and remember the two week break in December?  So let’s just say these two teachers have 6-7 months to prepare their students for the big “TEST”.

3)  The big “TEST” (SBAC) is THE one and only measure used to determine if their students met the “rigorous” common core standards.

4)  Teacher A’s students have computers at home.   Teacher B’s don’t.   The test is on a computer.  Which set of students have the advantage here?

5)  The majority of Teacher A’s students came already at standard and she must close the gap from 85% to 100% meeting standard by the big “TEST” date.  Whereas, Teacher B must move her children from 20% to 100% in the same time period.

Anyone catching the drift here…..?

Looney Tunes 7

What school would you like to teach in, if you knew your teacher evaluation… how “good” of a teacher you are… was based on this big “TEST”?

Scores are published after SBAC, the big “TEST”.   Let’s just have some fun with some hypotheticals.  Shall we?

According to the No Child Left Behind Act, all children shall be at 100% on the big “TEST” or the teacher and the school are deemed a failure.   ALL children must achieve the same standards at the same time…. and 100% shall do so… “or else”!

Teacher A’s scores come back and 95% of her students scored proficient or above.   (A level 3 or 4)  An increase of 10%.

Teacher B’s scores come back and 55% of her students scored proficient or above. (A level 3 or 4) An increase of 35%.

What’s published in the newspaper?

Teacher A’s class/school rocks the big “TEST” with 95% of their students meeting standard or above. Yahoo!

Cheer!  Clap!  Amazing School!  Amazing Teachers!  Wow!

What a school!  Parents declare, “I want my kid to go to this school!”




Teacher B’s class/school is considered a complete failure.   The big “TEST” showed only 55% of the students were able to meet the standard.   This school is now put on “steps”.  They are given a probation year.  Eventually, the state comes in and overtakes the school, sometimes firing the whole staff, and replacing them with “better” teachers.

Or… of course… A charter school down the road can spring up, utilizing tax dollars, and experiment with the children… it  doesn’t matter that most of them close down eventually… but what the heck… keep giving it a try… see the tremendous “success” rate (here).

Looney Tunes 3The “or else”…..  the data from the big “TEST” (SBAC) is what is used to determine the success or failure of a school.   The 8-9 year olds have one day of testing on a computer in reading, one day in math, out of 180 days of school….  and this is how we measure a school’s success or failure?

Let’s put a microscope on this….

1)  According to the No Child Left Behind Act, BOTH schools are in failure.  Yep.  You did hear this right.   According to the No Child Left Behind Act all schools were to have ALL of their students to standard, 100% of them, by 2014.

2)  So….. Teacher A moved his/her children from 85% meeting standard to 95% meeting standard… and…  Teacher B moved his/her children from 20% to 55% meeting the standard.

May I stop and ask you to reread the conditions in Teacher B’s classroom verse Teacher A’s?

And… may I ask the question again… What gets published in the newspaper?  I forget.

Oh! Yeah… that’s right…

Only the end result.

Does Teacher B get any credit at all for moving 35% of her students to standard that weren’t there before?

So let’s get back to the original point…  Comparing teachers and/or linking a teacher’s evaluation to the big “TEST”…

Makes. No. Sense.

May I suggest another experiment?  Looney Tunes 1

After the scores are published and a teacher’s class scores analyzed for “success” in teaching let’s experiment:  The following year the two teachers swap classrooms.  Teacher A comes to Teacher B’s school.   Teacher B gets to teach at Teacher A’s school.

Can you predict what the scores will show?   Will Teacher A come to the 90% plus poverty school and raise the 20% meeting standard to the 95% she got before?   Will teacher B show incredible growth in his/her teaching ability because last year he/she had 55% of her students meeting standard and now he/she magically has 95% meeting standard?

The Tale of Two Teachers…

Let’s follow their paths.   Each year they swap schools.   Each year we look at the scores on the big “TEST”.   What will we find out?

The Finnish Swap

Finland’s Pasi Sahlberg is one of the world’s leading experts on school reform and the author of the best-selling Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland?”

He had the same idea about the teacher swap…  Let’s take Finnish teachers and bring them to the United States and let’s take United States teachers and  bring them to Finland and let them teach for five years.  What Pasi Sahlbert reveals may be quite surprising… In a five year time span, he says the United States teachers would be flourishing, where as the Finnish teachers most likely would quit before the five years were up…

Hmmm… I wonder why?

Read the article to find out (here).

A side note on National Board Certification:

In Washington State the legislatures approved paying National Board Certified Teachers a bonus of $5,090 and an additional $5,000 bonus if they would go to work in a high poverty school.  (70% or higher free/reduced lunch count)  This means they are paying an annual $10,090 bonus to attract “highly qualified” teachers to these schools.  I have devoted myself to high poverty schools for most of my career.  I just transferred to my current school in October which was given an F rating by the state of Washington.  Every classroom looks just like Teacher B’s.  What would draw a teacher to teach in a school with high poverty?  Ever think about this?

I have.

And I know the answer.







When the SBAC scores come back after Spring of 2015, our first official year, I am pretty sure my school will be deemed a low performing school because the majority of the students will not meet the standard.  Especially after knowing the SBAC cut scores were set on November 17, 2014, in Washington State… for approximately 70% of our students to fail.  Just as Pasi Sahlbert reveals, there are outside factors that influence student performance… “small” things like, hmmmmmm…. let’s say poverty?

I know this…  Incredible teachers teach in my school.  Teachers with solid instructional practice.

Who could possibly think the SBAC is an accurate measure a teacher’s abilities?

I wonder some days if the $5,000 additional dollars is worth it?  There are a good many NBCTs in my building.  It is interesting to consider how many are asking if the additional bonus is worth it?  Does the state of Washington want to push us outside the door?  Anyone of us could apply for a transfer and teach in a more affluent school.  Imagine… having the majority of students walking in the door already at standard from the previous year, and ready to learn… and… according to the big, one day, high-stakes “TEST”,  the scores in this affluent classroom will supposedly show how much better of a teacher I am? Looney Tunes 4

Are ya kiddin’ me?

Looney Tunes.

Let’s put the big “TEST” itself under the microscope:

Who else is asking if the test items are appropriate and measure the Common Core Standards?  Who says this test is valid and reliable?  Not this (study).  Even SBAC admits they don’t know if its a valid measure of college readiness. Is this test developmentally appropriate?  Eight and nine year olds just learning to type are put on a computer and asked to explain their reasoning and write comparison analysis of text?


Yet some of our legislators and billionaire business men seem to think the big “TEST” will show who is teaching well and who isn’t.


We would do well to learn some lessons from Finland.

Let’s expose this story of “The Tale of Two Teachers” and the idea of the teacher swap to anyone who thinks a teacher’s value can be based on a standardized test.

Can we put to rest once and for all that there are factors in our beautiful children, rich and poor, that affect their performance and come to us with varying degrees of understanding for various reasons?

One test, on one day, will never show how good of a teacher I am.  Especially a “TEST” like the SBAC.  I am convinced this test is not a valid or reliable measure of student success, nor am I convinced it can accurately measure the quality of a teacher.

Looney Tunes 6



Fire is Catching