Monday, July 23, 2012

Illinois Teacher Eval Training: They couldn't screw it up more if they tried

Really, you can't make this stuff up. In my last post, I tried to describe the frustration many educators in Illinois are feeling as a result of the teacher eval training mandated by the state. Just to recap:

In order to evaluate any teachers in 2012/2013, trainers must complete several online modules related to teacher evaluation and the new state legislation. The time consuming part involves as product developed by Teachscape, which requires prospective evaluators to watch video clips of classes and rate them based on Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching. Based on these clips (with shaky video and uneven audio quality), teachers must match the ratings of master evaluators to pass two assessments: Stage 1 and Stage 2. The training itself took me at least 25 clock hours to complete, and each assessment took me approximately 3 hours. Thankfully, I did not have any technical difficulties.

Nevermind. I forgot. Actually I did have tech issues. One of the videos hung on me so the picture froze on me for about 2 minutes, but I could still hear the sound. Thankfully, I was able to pass the assessment anyway. I got lucky.

Anyway, you have 2 chances  to pass each stage. If you do not pass, no feedback is given. You are told to simply try again. Those who do not pass the either assessment after 2 tries (and no feedback) are given a remediation opportunity. Turns out, the state decided a webinar would be the format of choice. It took a while to get this out of them, but that's what they landed on. I have a colleague who had the pleasure of this remediation training. Here's how it went:

When the time came, the trainer sent an email to all of those who were enrolled in the training so that all email addresses were visible. So much for confidentiality. It was just incredibly unprofessional, and makes one wonder: how much do we trust those running this training if they can't crack the mysterious code of a "blind copy"?

Next, the webinar started a full 40 minutes late because of technical difficulties. None of the participants could hear the presenter. They ultimately fumbled around, found some tech support, and got the training fixed. Of course, as has been a theme in this process, they insinuated repeatedly that the issues were due to user error. "Hmmm. Must be a browser issue." Yes, every single one of the participants were using the wrong browser.

No, that was not the case and the issue was on their end. Clearly, they had not adequately tested their system, and as a result, they wasted the time of the professionals participating in the training. (Wasting people's time has also been a theme in this process) The email conversation among the participants as they tried to fix the tech issues was amusing. Remember: all of these irritated and insulted people now had each other's email addresses.

Once the training began, the presenter made it clear that he did not work for Teachscape, had no new information about the assessments, was not affiliated with the Danielson group, and was not even qualified as a "Master Rater" of Danielson's framework. So, what's the point? What qualified this person to run a training on this teaching model or this product? Nothing, but it's not like the participants had a choice.

Well, nevermind that. The training lasted several hours, and was essentially a rehash of the Teachscape training information. Needless to say, the trainer did not shed much more light on the model or the assessment. I believe the participants felt no more prepared to take the assessment than they did before wasting several hours on this training.  Anyway, time to retest. 

Here's the fantastically insulting part: My colleague passed the Stage 1 assessment and needed to take the Stage 2 assessment. When he went in to take the Stage 2 assessment following the remediation webinar, the Teachscape system would not recognize the fact that he had passed Stage 1. In order to get to Stage 2, he would have to take the Stage 1 assessment again. 

Surely it's a mistake, right? That's got to be something easily fixed by TeachScape, yes?  They must have anticipated that some people would pass Stage 1, and would only need to take the Stage 2 assessment. Someone behind the scenes must have forgotten to check a box somewhere in the software and it would be ready to go in short order. 

No. Of course not. They're baffled. Apparently, they never saw this situation coming and can't fix it. Not yet it least. Evidently, they're now working on it and hope to have it fixed.  In early August. 

Just to be clear: that's over two weeks after the remediation training. Also keep in mind: every single deadline connected to this training has been missed. Every date that we have been told has been wrong. Every. Single. One. 

So, they claim to have this little hiccup fixed in early August? I would bet on late August at the soonest. This prediction is just in keeping with how disrespectful they have been with everyone's time. I hope I'm wrong, but I have exactly no cause to believe otherwise. Their track record is pretty poor. 

Also keep in mind that this training has to be completed by September 1. Contrary to popular opinion, educators are busy over the summer. In particular, the start of the school year is coming and time will get tighter and tighter.

Disrespectful. Embarrassing. Infuriating. Shameful. 


  1. The incompetence is breathtaking. It is no wonder that people do not trust government when examples like this arise. Should be interesting if consequences need to be doled out at the user levels.

  2. As you go forward with your teacher evaluation automation, remember there are other Illinois-based companies that offer QUALITY online teacher evaluation software. Don't get led to believe that there is only one provider. Ed Automate is one of them. I hope you have better luck going forward, Mikkel.