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Palm Coast Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 7 years ago

Schools' inflated teacher evaluations are not believable

by: Jim Ulsamer

Dear Editor:

Your Dec. 10 issue reported that 97% of Flagler's teachers were rated "effective” or "highly effective,” with 76% in the "highly effective" classification. As someone with a considerable amount of experience with performance appraisals and salary administration (albeit in the private sector), I can assure you that these statistics do not have a basis in reality.

The corollary that only 3% of teachers were unsatisfactory or in need of improvement further adds to the delusion. Simply stated, no population of employees, professional or otherwise, exhibits this level of performance. That is, of course, if the evaluations are determined in an objective and professional manner.

There is a great tendency to inflate the performance levels of employees in both the public and private sectors. Why does this happen? Some managers or administrators do not set high expectations; thus, it is easy to receive a positive performance rating. Other managers are reluctant to look the employee in the eye and tell the individual that he or she is not doing a good job. Or, there may be some institutional incentives to have a high number of perceived high performers. Whatever the reasons, this results in performance inflation, much like the related grade inflation that students sometimes enjoy (but do not benefit from).

The article also stated that of the 44 administrative personnel in the Flagler County schools, not one is in need of an improvement in performance. I'm sorry, but I find that hard to believe.

So what are the implications of all this? First, there is a false sense of confidence regarding the actual performance of teachers and administrators, which can foster complacency, and compromise efforts to improve employee performance. Second, how can performance-based pay be administered in any meaningful way when the overwhelming majority (76%) occupy the highest performance level? Unless there are multiple gradations within the "highly effective" category, virtually all teachers will receive the same pay increases, almost like "everyone gets a trophy."

I am not suggesting that Flagler County does not have good schools. However, excessive generosity in the evaluation system will only undermine efforts by our schools to achieve the highest possible level of true performance.

Jim Ulsamer is a resident of Ocean Hammock, in Flagler County.


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