Why OCPS Teachers Leave - Fitzpatrick Shares 40 Reasons to Replace Marzano

My name is Matthew J. Fitzpatrick, and I am running for the Orange County School Board Chair position. I am currently an Assistant Director at Orange Technical College, Avalon Campus. I've been in education for 25 years -- 12 years as a teacher, and 13 years as a school and district administrator. In all my years of being involved in education, in my opinion, I have never seen a more demoralizing and destructive system than the OCPS implementation of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation system. I believe the Marzano system, more than anything else, is driving teachers out of education...and thus, OCPS has long lists of teacher vacancies. I believe this enough that I am willing to set aside my own administrative career and take a 50% pay cut in order to bring common sense back to the classroom. We must turn things around now.

Here are my first 40 Reasons to Replace the Marzano Teacher Evaluation System...splitting hairs on a system designed to split hairs on the art of teaching...

1. Dr. Marzano himself said on page 4 of his famous book, The Art and Science of Teaching, that, "It is certainly true that research provides us with guidance as to the nature of effective teaching, and yet I strongly believe that there is not (nor will there ever be) a formula for effective teaching." If Dr. Robert J. Marzano says there is not a formula for effective instruction, who am I to argue with him? Why have we settle for a cookie-cutter approach to teaching?

2. Non-educators may not completely understand all of this "teacherese" jargon about teacher evaluations, but simply mention the name Marzano to an Orange County Public School teacher and take note of how they react...watch what happens to their face...feel the emotions of their words. Anything that causes such disdain among the very lifeblood of education--the teachers--surely is not good for education...no matter how much the sanitized research is quoted in support of it.

3. Where are the amazing results from using the "research-proven" Marzano strategies? Our District's test scores and grades went down in many areas and schools. Why haven't 6 years of Marzano transformed our District? If something is not delivering results, and at the same time it is driving great teachers out of the profession, we must make a data-driven decision and move in another direction...for the sake of our students and teachers.

4. Teaching should not be reduced to the numerical measurements of individual instructional strategies. Just as Mr. Keating (Robin Williams), in Dead Poets Society instructed his students to resist the armies of academics who want to reduce poetry to a passionless score that misses its true beauty and purpose, so, too, must students, parents, teachers and administrators stand against such a heartless, nitpicking view of the art of instruction. We must "Rip It Out" as an evaluation tool in our District.

5. As the Ocoee HS bowling coach, I learned something that has served me well as a supervising administrator over teachers: "If someone is bowling strikes, you leave them alone." Go get yourself a patty melt, find a comfortable seat, and enjoy the show. The Marzano system of teacher evaluations does quite the opposite. It does not care if someone is bowling strikes. For many great teachers, the system will seem like the equivalent of suggesting that a professional bowler use a different ball, a different release, and then bowling with the opposite hand. And when it is all over, and the teacher is no longer bowling strikes and probably feels like quitting...the expert with all the ideas will probably blame the teacher for their drop in success and their low morale. Why mess with a great teacher? Great teachers do not understand such a philosophy of leadership, and that is precisely why they are leaving for private schools, charter schools, grad school, or school administration...anywhere outside of the classroom until the Marzano Era is over.

6. Correct me if I am wrong, but I've been told that Marzano only formally taught for 3 years. Since when is someone with 3 years of teaching experience considered an expert? A researcher's conclusions about teaching may look great on paper, or in any of his many books...and his conclusions may even make perfectly good sense to upper management and those who are outside of the classroom, but if the research isn't confirmed by the views and experiences of the practitioners in the classroom...you know, those who are actually doing the work...then we must "Rip It Out!" We cannot dismiss the loud outcry that rises across the district from our teachers against such a demoralizing system. To argue for such a system can only be viewed as evidence of being completely out of touch with what is currently taking place in our schools. "Rip It Out! Go On...Rip...I don't hear enough Ripping!"

7. Many great teachers have completely given up on the system. They no longer pay attention to it, or worry about it. Why should they expend any more emotional energy on something they no longer believe in. They believe that being rated "highly effective" is impossible, so they've decided to just focus on doing what they believe is best for their students. Imagine that...a teacher actually knowing what is best for their students. If such a system causes great teachers to give up on it, surely the system is broken. Is this the mindset we want our great teachers to have? Rip It Out!

8. Many teachers have found great success without Marzano. With the advent of the "Marzano Era" in OCPS, one AP Calculus teacher, who happens to have an amazing pass rate of 92%, told his supervising administrator straight up, "You won't find a learning goal or any performance scales in my classroom." Obviously, this teacher wasn't a Marzano fan. The administrator had to make a decision...Does he really want to "nail" and nitpick a teacher with a 92% pass rate in AP Calculus? Besides, this particular teacher, if you give him a bad evaluation, he's been known to print it out and post it on his whiteboard for all of his students to see. The students can smell a garbage evaluation from a mile away. The students carry the story home to their parents, and then the administration gets an earful from the parents. Don't bring those garbage, irrelevant evaluations into the presence of a great teacher--"Get that weak stuff outta here!" Great teachers know what they are doing far better than the vast majority of the Armies of Academics and "Marzanofied" Administrators that visit their classroom. Rip It Out!

9. At a recent OCPS Summer Leadership Institute, two presenting Principals suggested that if a teacher has great data, it is okay for them to teach outside of the Marzano framework...much like the AP Calculus teacher that was previously mentioned--one of the Principals used that teacher as an example. So, in essence, an administrator doesn't have to hold such a teacher to the fire in terms of implementing with fidelity the OCPS flavor of the Marzano Mandates. The problem with selective expectations for different teachers is that it leads to subjective evaluations where some teachers must adhere to the

Marzano Mandates, while other teachers have somehow escaped the Marzano Mandate Matrix. The question I have is, "What is the threshold for this instructional freedom that I speak of...or that the Principals spoke of?" Is it a 90% AP pass rate? Is it 70% AP pass rate? What about the "Navy Seal" teachers who take on the toughest of assignments, such as High School Intensive Reading Teachers--their pass rates may never get close to 70%...are they out of luck--forever condemned to the Marzano Matrix Of Mundane Methodology? Are we going to apply these Marzano exemptions arbitrarily? Is there an official District policy that establishes a score teachers can shoot for? This evaluation system was supposed to eliminate the arbitrary application and subjective nature of teacher evaluations, but it looks like there is now a loophole. Rip It Out!

10. Upper management closely monitors the evaluation scores that are given by supervising administrators. Not only does upper management monitor the scores, but they also put pressure on administrators to keep scores lower and in line with district averages. I discovered this fact on two different occasions. The first occasion was when an Area Superintendent sent an email asking why my teacher evaluation scores were slightly higher than the other administrators on campus. My principal forwarded the email to me and asked who I had given "Innovating" (4's) ratings to. I wasn't happy about my evaluation scores being questioned. I forwarded the email to the Area Superintendent and copied my Principal--I didn't want my response to be filtered, whatsoever. I said, "I gave "Innovating" ratings to whomever I thought earned them, so I really didn't pay attention to who I gave them to, or how many I gave. I adjusted to the new definition of an "Innovating" rating being when a teacher reaches the desired effect of a strategy with 100% of their students. I was trying to be as objective as possible with my teacher evaluations.

Now, Something told me that upper management would be closely monitoring this type of data, so I added a paragraph of feedback for every "Innovating" rating that I gave a teacher. If anyone wanted to know why I gave such a rating, the justification was just a couple clicks away. For me, giving teachers feedback is what it is all about, so I didn't mind spending a couple extra minutes adding descriptive comments and much needed encouragement.

When it was all said and done, I know two things for a fact...actually, three things...1.) I probably led the District in "Innovating" ratings given to teachers that year. 2.) I probably led the District in the amount of feedback I provided to teachers that year. 3.) The Math teachers that I supervised that year had students who led the district in Math gains that year. Somehow, everything makes sense in the end.

11. Historic levels of early retirements.

12. Principals and teachers advising their own children to go into anything other than education because of the current work environment.

13. Extreme micromanagement. Regardless of the profession, no one likes to be micromanaged. That's why teachers leave.

14. Great teachers are willing to take a $10,000 pay cut to work at private and charter schools...anything to get away from Marzano.

15. There is an expectation of perfection when using the Marzano teacher strategies. Nobody likes to work for a perfectionist...you're never quite good enough...and so they leave.

16. I've heard it said that the Marzano teacher evaluation system is great at getting rid of bad teachers. The problem is, it is also great at getting rid of great teachers.

17. Using the Marzano system to get rid of bad teachers is likened unto starving yourself to lose weight. You will lose fat (the weak teachers), but you will also lose muscle (the strong teachers). When you finally start feeding yourself again (get rid of the Marzano system) the fat will quickly return, but the muscle will be lost for a long time.

18. The students that lose the most during an era of high-stakes teaching are the students that need the most help. Our district is currently in desperate need of ESE teachers. Many teachers are removing ESE as a certification on their license because they don't want to be "placed" in an ESE classroom where they can only get "Innovating" ratings if 100% of their students are engaged and reaching the desired effect on the various Marzano strategies. It's much tougher to reach such a perfection status with a mix of students that need constant support and re-engagement.

19. When the Instructional Coaches were pushed back into classrooms last year due to the high level of teacher vacancies, many had an epiphany about the Marzano strategies. When they actually had to use the strategies everyday, the response was, "This stuff is a bunch of crap." (Not my words.)

20. Great teachers who give everything they have for their students, but still, some how, they fail to reach the highest rating. These teachers should never have a negative thought about teaching, and yet they are left confused and frustrated, asking what more they could have done to be properly recognized. It may seem like a small matter to an administrator for a great teacher to not get the highest rating, but to these particular teachers it means the world to be truly appreciated for their efforts. Having no system at all would be better than having such a system that loses all human intelligence when its internal algorithms take over and produce a final rating. These great teachers will do a masterful job either way, because their passion for teaching and their love for their students won't allow them to do anything less. No system is perfect, but these teachers live the daily reality of the saying, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

21. After reading some of Jesus' teachings, I'm convinced that not even he would have been rated "highly effective" by Marzano. Did Jesus get blamed when his audience didn't comprehend what he was saying? I believe he even asked his closest followers, "Are you still so dull?" He didn't blame himself when his students weren't engaged. We put a lot on teachers these days--100% engagement and learning. Jesus didn't reach 100%. He even hid the meanings of his lessons in simple stories so that the uninterested had no idea what he was talking about. Jesus had his own techniques and strategies. I guess I just can't imagine Jesus using Marzano's techniques. And yet, he was considered a Master teacher and his teachings still inspire people to this day. There's obviously a plethora of ways to teach effectively.

22. The system is obviously broken when the number of "highly effective" teachers fluctuates from 80% one year, to 2.4% the next. Can such a system really be considered credible?

23. In order for a great teacher to be rated as "highly effective", theoretically, they must get more "innovating" ratings than "applying" ratings. A teacher cannot afford to cut corners on any of the strategies if they want the highest rating. So, when a teacher introduces their learning goal for their lesson, they now have to introduce the goal, check to see everyone understands the goal, have everyone rate themselves on how well they understand what the goal is, have everyone write it down to show that they know what it is, and then put the goal in their own words. If everyone writes down the goal in their own words, this shows that 100% understand what the goal of the lesson is. By the time the teacher is done explaining what the goal of the class is, 20 minutes of instructional time have been burned up. That is simply too much time to take to inform the class what you plan to accomplish in a lesson. But the teacher has to do this type of song and dance to get the highest rating if they hope to receive more "innovating" ratings than "applying" ratings.

24. The Marzano system can be compared to my golf game. Neither are very good. Whenever i go to hit the golf ball, I have several things running through my mind: what club should I use, how far over should I wrap my right thumb over the club, how far up on the grip should I hold the club, how tightly should I hold the club, how close should I stand to the ball, how much should I bend over the ball, how far up or back on the ball should I stand, how far back should I take my backswing, how much should I keep my arms bent or straight, how well should I follow-through, and how upset will I get at where my ball ends up. There's so much to think about. Everything has to go just right for me to hit a great shot. The same is true for a teacher trying to teach under the Marzano system. With 41 elements that have to be essentially perfect to get a great evaluation, it's no wonder only 2.4% finished on top.

25. There's no room on the whiteboard to teach with learning goals and performance scales taking up all the space on the board. Imagine if a teacher has two preps.

26. I've heard of teachers getting the same ratings every year...all "applying". The system has become very predictable for many teachers.

27. The district has obviously given up on there really being a significant difference between the "highly effective" teacher and the "effective" teacher. The highest rating only receives $250 extra next year. Most teachers have already given up on the system. Do you really think a teacher will try once again for the highest rating for a measly $250?

28. When students start off the year with a substitute as their teacher on the first day, the system is broken. It is time for the district to look inward. My son has PH for Algebra II. PH stands for Place Holder. That means no teacher has been found. I hope the teacher they hire--if they are able to find one--is a high quality teacher. These STEM teachers can make a lot more money doing something else...these are the areas where we will have the most trouble filling positions. We need to fix the system fast.

29. An informal observation must last for 10 minutes to be official. Should a teacher's pay really be determined by a surprise visit that only lasts for 10 minutes. I feel so bad for great teachers when I walk into their classroom and they feel like they have to change everything up just to try to get more "innovating" ratings than "applying" ratings. It's sad that a teacher just can't continue their lesson and not feel the stress to impress. I don't want my teachers thinking about me when I walk into their rooms. I want them focused on their lesson and their students. This punitive system doesn't allow for that. Imagine any other job where a surprise 10 minute visit determines your pay. That's how a district ends up with 2.4% of highly effective teachers. That's also how a district ends up with teacher vacancies on opening day.

30. Teachers feel alienated from the School Board and District upper management. Teachers don't care about any of the awards the district wins when they feel completely stressed-out, frustrated, and demoralized by a punitive evaluation system. Talking about all of the wonderful awards "the district" has won sends a strong message that those at the top are out of touch with what's happening on the ground. Talking about how wonderful the new schools are doesn't really matter if the great teachers, who truly make schools great, have left.

31. Teachers feel the subjective nature of the evaluations when one administrator gives high ratings to their lessons, and another administrator always gives lower ratings for the same lessons and strategies.

32. One teacher expressed the fact that her veteran principal consistently gives higher ratings than the assistant principals...which makes sense, the principal probably isn't looking to move up, but the assistant principals are...and they need to show their toughness and commitment to instructional leadership.

33. One school did an in-service where they showed a video of a teacher presenting a lesson. The assistant principals and principal scored the teacher on the video completely different. The subjectivity of the system was obvious. Teachers deserve to see these kinds of demonstrations...it's called being transparent and admitting we have a flawed, imperfect system because human beings are flawed and imperfect. On top of that, the evaluation tool is flawed. Trying to align every administrator to giving the same ratings has proven to be akin to herding squirrels.

34. At the Marzano Teacher Observation Evaluation Recertification training, administrators were all over the map on what they saw in the video practice lessons they watched. Subjectivity is certainly apparent among administrators on any given campus, but it is on best display when school administrators across the district are brought together. Some schools only focus on certain things, while other schools implement the system to the letter.

35. This year, the recertification exam for administrators didn't require administrators to simply score a teacher's lesson. The exam questions spelled out what elements the administrator should look for and score...and the administrator just had to select the correct multiple choice answer that related to the element. As I think about it now, the super evaluators scoring these exams in the past must have had a terrible time making heads or tails of what was a passing evaluation with administrators scoring completely different elements among the 41 Marzano teaching elements. The fact of subjectivity is blaringly obvious to those involved in the creation and evaluation of the recertification process.

36. Not only are teachers leaving due to the stressful, punitive nature of the Marzano system, but Principals are also leaving. I hear of numerous Principals who had hoped to work a few more years, but they simply can't take what schooling has become. Many Principals and Assistant Principals truly feel bad for their teachers.

37. The Marzano system has damaged the climate (how teachers feel) and the culture (how teachers behave) of schools. The “Us-vs.-Them” mentality has never been stronger. Most administrators also hate the climate that has been created by a punitive system that micromanages and nitpicks a teacher's lessons and efforts. A house divided will not stand...and so, many teachers look to leave the profession. New teachers leave as soon as they can, while experienced teachers are seeking early retirement. The teachers in the middle...the ones who have to stay...they do everything they can to keep their passion alive for teaching and reaching students. But don't think for a minute that they aren't looking for a way out that preserves their retirement.

38. One teacher shared a situation where he received a lower rating for not monitoring the effectiveness of how he grouped his students during an activity. Do teachers really have time to "monitor" and formally document how well they group their students? Typically, if a teacher sees that there is a problem in a group, they will address the problem by not grouping those individuals together again in the future. Blindsiding a teacher like this is typical of a system that has so many requirements that a teacher has no idea what they could be surprised with out of the blue. Teachers cannot possibly think about everything the Marzano system can hit them with. What will end up happening in the future is teachers just won't use groups when an administrator is in the room. Teaching becomes much like the movie Groundhog Day, with teachers learning what to avoid in the future...but they can never learn enough to master the system...and so they give up.

39. After five years of using the Marzano system, one would think teachers would be showing progress in getting better at using the Marzano Matrix of Methodology...the teacher scores should be going up...we expect students to show adequate yearly progress. Do we hold administrators accountable for the lack of improvement by their teachers? With only 2.4% of teachers scored as highly effective, I would say our teachers are digressing according to Marzano. (I don't buy into the Marzano system, and teachers will digress when they are forced to teach in a manner that is unnatural to them.)

40. Teachers learn to "game the system"...and I don't blame them. If administrators want to see certain things in a systematic fashion when they observe a lesson, these teachers are willing to give them exactly what the want. I've heard of teachers preparing their students ahead of time when an administrator might walk into their room. The students know that whenever an administrator walks into the room, the teacher will ask them to take out a piece of paper. The activity may not have had anything to do with what they were currently doing in class, but it was a perfectly designed activity that could easily be scored by the Marzano system every time it was needed. The students don't mind playing along...they also see the foolishness of such a controlling system that restricts the passion of great teachers.

Well, there you have it...the first 40 reasons why OCPS should replace the Marzano Teacher Evaluation system. Our School Board desperately needs someone that understands the inner-workings of such a system that has proven its exceptional ability to demoralize our teacher troops.

I find it astonishing how much the incumbent talks about awards and new schools as accomplishments while the teaching profession is being gutted...this shows a lack of understanding. The greatest need that students have is not new buildings, or super standards, great tests, or great technology...what students need the most are great teachers. When a parent knows their child has a great teacher, their heart is set at ease. Ask students and parents how important it is to have great teachers that both care about students and have a passion for their subject matter.

We need individuals on the School Board that understand teaching and learning...leave the politics to the folks in Tallahassee. Regardless of how much money one can raise from OCPS School Building Construction vendors...murals, mulch and memories will not get the job done. With all due respect, these are all nice things to do, but we need a work horse on the School Board, not a show horse. We need someone that is going to step up and speak up for our students and teachers, not someone who will speak up for building construction vendors and politicians. If voters do their research on each candidate, and really find out what they bring to the table, I feel we have a good chance going into the final 2 weeks. The message is more important than the money...the power of "We" is more important than the power of "Me". If you believe a teaching and learning revolution is possible, you'll vote for Fitzpatrick....

"Whenever someone argues for the Marzano Teacher Evaluation System, I have a strong impulse to see them teach under it. This impulse is only surpassed by an even stronger impulse to evaluate them using it." ~ Matthew J. Fitzpatrick

Share and Tag a Teacher...they need the encouragement of knowing someone understands.

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Political advertisement paid for and approved by Matthew J. Fitzpatrick, Non-Partisan, for Orange County School Board Chair


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