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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 3, November/December 2004

Is this supervision or is it evaluation?

by Peter McCue

How do you know if learning is being supervised or if you are being evaluated? There is a difference between supervision and evaluation. Under Section 4.5 (7) of the School Act Regulations, principals do have the authority to supervise. Under Section 4.5, they also have the responsibility to evaluate. Our collective agreement, the contract between the employer and ourselves, gives the framework on how the evaluation is to be carried out. Evaluation and supervision are not interchangeable.

Administrators supervise by:

  • bringing ongoing and emergent issues to staff committee meetings or staff meetings.
  • checking all report cards that are sent to parents.
  • checking to see that teachers arrive at school on time.
  • dealing with parents.
  • ensuring that teachers submit attendance records.
  • ensuring that files are kept, IEPs are developed, the resources needed to do the work are provided, and year-end records are completed.
  • possibly asking for previews and course outlines.

Permutations are arising from some over enthusiastic attendees of a B.C. Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association (BCPVPA) workshop on supervision of learning, being offered to administrative officers (AOs) around the province. Part of it is a condensed version of Charlotte Danielson’s "Framework for Teaching," designed for work with student teachers. We’re seeing that legitimate supervision is becoming snoopervision. Rather than a climate of collegial improvement, we see an abuse of power and a selective model of progressive discipline that violates the contract language around evaluation.

Local presidents and BCTF field service staff are seeing memos and notes with expectations, letters of direction, and letters of discipline containing evaluation that addresses issues out of context or without discussion of events. Many of those letters and memos that refer to issues out of context are ending up in individual personnel files. Some contain language that is disciplinary and should involve representation. Contact your local president or consult with your staff rep when that happens. Such missives could have ramifications for you later in your employment, or with the BC College of Teachers.

Some members report increased detail and expectations arising from the previews and overviews, with requests for teachers to indicate how they are meeting the school goals through instruction and to make links to the accountability-contract language. Particular emphasis is being placed on literacy goals.

We are seeing attacks on the use of professional development, teacher autonomy (referred to as the "spectre of teacher autonomy" in one of the BCPVPA workshops), unilateral changing of the name of professional days to "staff development," and significant attempts to redefine language around leave approval to approval of the professional development activity itself.

Workshops with such titles as "Getting the Deadwood to Bloom Again" and "How to Assess Effective Instruction With the Five-minute Walk Through" are being offered.

How do you know if your principal is supervising or evaluating when she or he drops into your classroom?

  • If she or he comes in with pencil and paper and sits down and takes notes, it’s evaluation.
  • If she or he comes in to see that you’re teaching what your timetable says and doesn’t stay long, she or he is supervising.
  • If she or he comes in and takes a reading group, it’s team teaching.

If evaluation is taking place, ensure that the contract language on evaluation is being followed. There are processes that are to be followed, and, where there is need, plans of assistance should be developed and offered. Many are offered in co-operation with the BCTF and the local. The Peer Support, Program for Quality Teaching, and professional-support initiatives are examples.

If you feel that you are having a significant number of unhelpful classroom visits or that it appears supervision is becoming evaluation, there are things you should do:

  • Document the time, length, number, and purpose of visits.
  • Request copies of any notes made, and discuss any notes taken. (If notes are taken, the evaluation language comes into play and should be followed.)
  • Contact your local office with any concerns.
  • Know the evaluation language in your collective agreement, and play an active role in your evaluation.

The collective agreement was reached through a process of give and take over many years. The contract is not only the teachers’ contract. It is the way both parties have agreed to operate. The BCTF workshops that are being offered to our school reps on teacher supervision are a beginning. We all want what’s best. The way to have that happen is by involving teachers in the process.

Peter McCue is an assistant director in the BCTF’s Field Service Division.

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