How to Survive Marzano and the iObservation
iObservation: A pain in the assessment
Teachers in several states are adjusting to the Marzano endorsed iObservation which documents how well they are performing in the classroom. Florida has embraced Dr. Robert Marzano's Teacher Evaluation Model which is linked to his method for developing expert teachers. So, this vacation, instead of just relaxing with family, I am also preoccupied with memories of fellow teachers stressed or in tears due to the addition of yet more responsibility heaped onto their plates. If you know a teacher ( or for that matter, an administrator ) you may also be aware of the fact that the job requirements have become increasingly impossible to meet. For the past several years, more and more demands have been placed on teachers and administrators to increase student achievement. No Child Left Behind and FCAT goals will be harder than ever to reach. While we all agree that student achievement is the primary goal; we don't always agree on the way to reach that goal. Marzano is an author, reseacher, and CEO; he is not a teacher. The official Marzano websites are replete with access to countless workshops, teacher training, books, DVDs and other products. His research laboratory has amassed tons of statistics on student learning, assessment, strategies, learning goals and rubrics; all in an effort to increase student achievement by helping teachers master the dozens of strategies deemed necessary to create the highly-engaged, highly-effective classroom. Those wishing to be fully "baptized" in his methods can now obtain a Master's degree in The Art and Science of Teaching via Wilkes University in Pennsylvania (shall I save you a seat?)
As a recent recipient of Marzano teacher training, I've had a chance to observe firsthand the scope of changes to come; the entire system is being overhauled. Some strategies are just a repackaging of what good teachers have always done, others are very new to most of us. Admittedly, the new ideas have rekindled my efforts to be the best teacher I can be; yes, even this ole' dog is excited about learning a few new tricks. Many teachers are feeling anxious and overwhelmed by the rapid pace of new procedures on top of the already heavy burden of fulfilling their daily duties. Administrators are doing their best to allay teachers' fears by squeezing as much training as possible into an already tightly packed schedule. Seasoned pros are questioning their ability to measure up to these new standards being issued faster than you can say "iObservation." Will their years of earning the coveted "Distinguished" performance rating translate well in this new evauation language? Will this "new and improved" way of teaching really pay off in the end? I've seen more than a few exciting "changes" come down the pike since I began teaching in the early 80's. For now, I remain cautiously optimistic that through this process we will glean the best of the research and neatly package and dispose of those elements we discover are not giving us "The best bang for the buck."
Unique and innovative are vocabulary words that I'm becoming most familiar with now that my teaching will be graded on a rubric or scale that essentially rates me based on how well I'm implementing the selected strategies that have a causal link to student achievement based on research findings. Will I score in the Developing, Applying, or possibly even the highest category, Innovating? Will those categories be dovetailed into yet another evaluative form? Will the fact that I teach special education students affect my overall rating? How directly will my pay and job security be based on my ability to remember every important detail during the administrator's visits?
If you're familiar with the Marzano method and the iObservation, I'd like to hear your feedback. Those of you in the trenches can serve us well by sharing what's worked for you, and what hasn't. Many of us are feeling the growing pains that come with learning this system. Still, I'm confident that together, shoulder to shoulder, we will survive this transition. Until then, I'll be coming up with unique and innovative ways to survive Marzano.