Texas School Administrators

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Texas Has Too Many administratorsComments from Fil Barnes

In pre-CSCOPE days, my PDAS (and the previous acronymic evaluation systems for teachers) evaluations were always very good. Students reported enjoying my classes, I had a good rapport with parents, and test scores were always up – even though I refused to teach to the tests. I just taught, and for the most part, students learned.

State STAAR tests scores are not valid indicators of student progress or a teacher’s ability to teach. This is because the STAAR Tests are not 100% correct plus students are being tested before they have been taught the material being tested on.

The CSCOPE era, designed to make evaluation and control of teachers easier for principals, ushered in a new mid-management position, the EDUCATIONAL SPECIALIST.

Like many other teachers, I was both skeptical and hopeful about having educational specialists monitoring teachers. . As an experienced teacher, I spent a lot of my time mentoring and to some degree training new teachers and getting them out of the weeds when they needed it.

CSCOPE may encourage student groups and collaboration, but in general it has the opposite effect on teacher collaboration. If anything it pits teachers against each other. Teachers are evaluated on how well their students score on the STAAR tests. While teachers are boxed in on what and when they teach concepts and even to some degree how they teach, some teachers have better managing skills as well as techniques that work. While the administration wants students to score high on the state tests, they keep the hands of teachers tied so that they all use a robot-like teaching method. It is all very contradictory because teachers whose students have higher scores are praised. Bullying is not something that happens only to students.

What is an Educational Specialist AKA Instructional Specialist?

An educational specialist should be someone:

  • who would visit classrooms,
  • have at least a reasonable knowledge of the subject matter,
  • and be ready to take some of those mentoring and training and rescuing duties

To be fair, the first educational specialist I worked with was exactly that, and she did an excellent job. Unfortunately, I have not seen such a case again.

Note that Fil described the educational (instructional ) specialist as someone that he worked with. This implies that the specialist was a help, someone who provided praise and ideas. Sadly that the CSCOPE/TRS “educational specialist” are monitors checking boxes on a list that indicates whether the teacher being observed is ——-I’ll stop and let Fil tell you some of his experiences. These indicate what the CSCOPE/TRS instructinal specialists are looking for when observing teachers.

As was recently pointed out in Texas CScope Review, the requirements for being an educational specialist involve little more than willingness to be overpaid and has a pulse.

From 2007 to 2013, I had a principal in my room less than a dozen times. The Educational Specialist had the authority to make “3-minute walk-throughs” of classrooms and with eagle eyes scan the room to confirm that the list of items on the evaluation sheet were met, such as Objective of lesson written on the board, the TEKS for the lesson written on the board, students working in groups, teachers standing in designated power zone areas, etc….One of the greatest offenses and one certain to lower a teachers evaluation is standing in front of the class and lecturing.

Nearly every day, an educational specialist would walk through my room, taking pictures with her (sorry, it just happened to always be a woman) iPad, interrupting students by asking them questions, and generally causing a distraction until it was time to move on to the next classroom. The only feedback I ever received from these “power walks” was the disciplinary reports to sign. Never a bit of “helpful” information, “hey, you were not in the power zone,” or “your framework was not in the “we will/I will format.” Just a policy violation document for my “permanent record.”

What for, you might ask? Let’s look at a few infractions I was documented for.

  • Not being in the power zone. Multiple infractions documented.

My response: I use the perimeter method, and it works for my classroom. Being in the middle puts my back to more than half of my students.

Their response: non-negotiable policy.

  • Having the lights dimmed. Once.

My response: The projector is only visible with the lights dimmed.

Their response: I still got the write-up, but they subsequently installed brighter projectors.

  • Sitting down. Multiple infractions.

My response: This is part of the perimeter system. I have one empty seat at each table, on the perimeter side. I sit here to engage this particular group at eye level while I can still see the whole room.

Their response: non-negotiable policy.

  • Sitting at my desk. Once.

My response: I was taking attendance, the computer is at my desk – I don’t have one of those fancy iPads.

Their response: non-negotiable policy.

  • Not being on the designated CSCOPE lesson. Multiple infractions.

My response(s): The students needed more time. I had a better lesson. There were too many mistakes in the lesson. It did not work yesterday and I had to replace it today.

Their response: non-negotiable policy.

  • Changing the lesson sequence. Once.

My response: The CSCOPE lesson is weather dependent and the weather this week is not going to allow it to work successfully, so I went on to the next one. I will pick it up when it will work.

Their response: non-negotiable policy.

When, at the end of the year, one educational specialist did talk to me about her observations, they were very negative. She had initiated every one of the disciplinary actions I had received that year. Every time, I got the signed form from the principal in my mailbox and was asked to sign it and return it. After a few, I stopped even trying to speak with them and just added my notes before signing.

My PDAS evaluation, the one time I saw the principal in my classroom all year, how did that turn out?

Nearly perfect. This document does not work the same way, and if followed the way it is supposed to be, it measures completely different objectives than the walk-throughs. I did lose a few points for not cooperating with administration.

That CSCOPE/TEKS Resource, Fundamental Five, etc. are tools to help keep teachers under control could not be more apparent.

None of these situations are unique to me. I have spoken with others who were shocked to hear that the same thing had happened in another district. Every one of them, in districts all across the state, is the same thing. A few districts use CSCOPE appropriately, maybe a few more now than in the past. The rule, however, is that it is used to allow administration not to need to know what is really happening in classrooms. All they need is a snapshot a day from someone who may not be qualified to even teach the course in which they are posing as a specialist.

However, most new teachers will comply and most experienced teachers will move on or move out. Which is, unfortunately, the whole point. I did eventually move on to a non-Cscope district, but I will continue to advocate for Texas students for as long as it takes to get the job done.

Closing Comment by Janice VanCleave

Many Texas school districts have too many administrators. Is the money being used to pay an Educational Specialist to determine if a teacher is standing in what is called “Power Zones” more important than science supplies or money for more teachers? NO!

When a school district has too many administrators, students receive less than a quality education. This is because the administrators have to dream up stuff to justify their salary.

Click Here for more about the excessive number of school administrators.


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