Term Paper: Diversity Issues in Schools That Effect Teacher Staff Performance Evaluation

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Diversity Issues in Schools that Affect Teacher-Staff Performance Evaluation

The United States has been transformed from its previous "melting pot" where immigrants quickly assimilated into the mainstream American society into more of a "salad bowl" where minority members increasingly embrace their native languages and customs, in some cases for several generations. In this environment, teachers are faced with some profound challenges in delivering high-quality educational services, but they are also confronted with some significant issues in terms of performance management systems. Certainly, the fact that different cultures embrace different customs, practices and values is nothing new, but the fact that the nation's schools have become increasingly multicultural environments suggests that these fundamental differences may be playing a role in the performance evaluation process as well. Moreover, the diverse nature of the American classroom indicates that some teachers are faced with more difficulties in delivering educational services than others, and the highly subjective nature of the performance evaluation process creates some additional challenges as well. These and related issues concerning diversity issues in the nation's schools that tend to affect teacher-staff performance evaluations are discussed further below, followed by a summary of the research and salient findings in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Background and Overview.

Today, the United States is a far different country demographically than it was just a few decades ago. For instance, Pitts (2005) reports that, "In 1980 whites made up 80% of the total U.S. population. By 2000, that figure had decreased to only 69%, while all other racial and ethnic groups in the United States had increased. This represents a substantial population shift in a relatively short period of time, and evidence suggests that diversity will continue to increase into the twenty-first century" (p. 615). Indeed, perhaps as no other time in the history of the country, American schools are faced with a broad spectrum of challenges ranging from overcrowded and violent classrooms to the recent introduction of various high-stakes testing regimens in the several states.

According to Rapp (2005), "Each year, teachers are faced with a task that is becoming increasingly difficult -- meeting the educational needs of all students. It seems unlikely that this can be accomplished single-handedly through traditional, teacher-centered instruction or through standardization as in the past" (p. 297). Adding further fuel to this academic fire has been the diversity of students needing individualized services for English as a second language instruction, a cornucopia of learning disabilities and the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-110), the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as amended in 2004. As Rapp advises, "Class sizes are increasing, and the backgrounds of the students in those classes are becoming more diverse. The move toward inclusive education, the societal respect for and celebration of diversity, and the recognition of multiple intelligences and learning styles all emphasize the complex heterogeneity of our students" (p. 297).

In this environment, it might be plausible to suggest that teachers should receive an outstanding performance evaluation just for showing up day after day, but the nation's students - and teachers - deserve far better than this minimal level of performance of course, but assessing performance in any environment is a challenging endeavor and it is little wonder that educators are likewise faced with some profound performance management issues as well. Alas, measuring the effectiveness of one teacher's performance compared to another's is fraught with opportunities for misjudgments and misinterpretations of isolated incidents, anecdotal accounts from peers and others, as well as the entire gamut of educational needs brought to bear on teachers as they address the academic and behavioral diversity in schools that serve the most challenged students (Mariage & Garmon, 2003).

Performance Evaluation in Diverse Academic Settings.

Teacher performance evaluations are certainly not new. In fact, as Aper and Fry (2003) point out, evaluations of teacher performance, whether formal or informal, have been undertaken in one form or another for as long as schools have existed. According to Broadnax (2000), many of the methods that are used in the performance evaluation for teachers introduce numerous opportunities for highly subjective analyses of employee performance by superiors that might not possess all of the requisite facts or the innate ability to effectively evaluate performance by others.

Moreover, and perhaps even more importantly, the highly subjective nature of the performance evaluation enterprise itself suggests that longstanding biases and stereotypes will play a part - even if unintentionally - in adversely affecting the review process. In this regard, Broadnax advises, "Techniques used to provide an evaluation of the performance which occurs between the role behavior and role prescription are affected by nativism through attitudes and criteria underlining job performance and appraisal of promotability. This is one of the reasons why Chicanos are relegated to low-paying positions and classifications" (p. 220). As the Commission on Civil Rights has also emphasized, "The subjective nature of most performance evaluation allows for discrimination and is one of the major barriers to equal opportunity" (quoted in Broadnax at p. 220). In a day and age characterized by the need to ensure an equitable playing field for all American citizens, these issues have assumed new importance and relevance, especially in the nation's schools. In this regard, Pitts emphasizes, "Members of minority racial and ethnic groups are less likely to receive a positive performance evaluation from supervisors, and ethnically diverse teams are more likely to receive negative evaluations than homogeneous teams" (p. 616). Clearly, then, and even though it should not need stating in this day and age, Stein and Waterstone (2006) emphasize that, "Discrimination on the basis of race or sex is unjust because these characteristics do not correlate with job performance" (p. 861).

Moreover, in many cases, teacher evaluation methods vary significantly from state to state and in some cases even from district to district. This suggests that making across-the-board comparisons of teacher performance can be difficult, if not impossible, particularly when different variables and evaluation techniques are used. As Brownell, Ross, Colon, and Mccallum (2005) point out, "Evaluation methods vary widely and focus on different outcomes, including direct assessment techniques, such as observation of teaching performance, and indirect assessment techniques, such as student satisfaction, faculty perceptions of the program, and cooperating teachers and administrators' perceptions of the student-teacher and program" (p. 242).

There is also the issue of fundamental philosophical differences in how teacher performance is gauged, with some administrators favoring one approach over another, and assigning higher ratings for those teachers who subscribe to this philosophical perspective - even if they do not personally agree with it. In this regard, Hoban (2004) reports that, "All teacher education programs have a conceptual framework which underpins their design. Importantly this design should prepare teachers for coping with the nature of the work and how to think about it. How one frames the learning-to-teach question depends a great deal on how one conceives of what is to be learned and how that learning takes place" (p. 117). Therefore, to the extent that an individual teacher relies on a conceptual framework learned in teacher training that differs from one preferred by the school district's administration may be the extent to which the teacher's performance evaluation suffers, even if the teacher in question is satisfying all other performance metrics in an outstanding fashion and these issues are discussed further below.

Impact of Performance Evaluation on Job Performance.

Anyone who has ever worked hard at a job can readily testify to the importance of being fairly evaluated concerning job performance. All people want to be treated fairly and their contributions and sacrifices recognized and rewarded, and teachers are certainly no exception. According to Kim (2005), "Job satisfaction is defined as a pleasurable or positive emotional state, resulting from the appraisal of one's job or job experiences. Job satisfaction is an affective or emotional response toward various facets of one's job. Most scholars recognize that job satisfaction is a global concept that also comprises various facets" (p. 245). It is reasonable to suggest that most teachers do not commit to the profession in an effort to become wealthy, and that they receive much of their job satisfaction from the helping nature of their profession. Because individual teachers will define personal success differently, their perception of job satisfaction will also vary significantly. Nevertheless, Kim emphasizes that the issue of job satisfaction is important because of its implications for job-related variables: "Job satisfaction is positively correlated with motivation, job involvement, organizational citizenship behavior, organizational commitment, life satisfaction, mental health, and job performance. It is negatively related to absenteeism, turnover, and perceived stress" (p. 246).

When teachers perceive that their efforts are being evaluated inappropriately or unfairly, or are based on job expectations that are more moving targets than established criteria, though, job dissatisfaction will naturally result. For example, in their recent essay, "Greener Pastures: Faculty Turnover Intent in Urban Public Universities," Daly and Dee (2006) report that teachers are already faced with a number… [END OF PREVIEW]

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