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Getting Pegged: IPEGS, the coercive teacher evaluation system of MDCPS

by Otto Zequeira

Last updated 05/26/09
IPEGS 2011-12 manual uploaded 05/21/14

I was one of the teachers in MDCPS getting “pegged” this year, IPEGed that is, pegged by the new, yearly, teacher evaluation system called IPEGS. IPEGS will increase coercion of teachers, curtail collaboration, and hurt education. The schools would be better served by adopting the more collaborative, continuous improvement processes that successful businesses have been utilizing for decades.

By its very nature, IPEGS is coercive. First of all, you have a middle level manager, an administrator, evaluating a lower-level manager, a teacher. You are forcing a teacher to fit into a checklist and rating the teacher on a four grade scale. Industrial theorist, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, who taught the Japanese how to surpass the Americans in quality and cost when his own countrymen would not listen to him, says in his book Out of the Crisis that evaluation of its employees is one of the most destructive things an organization can do.

Making evaluations less coercive is also supported by educational writer, William Glasser, MD, author of Schools without Failure.

Additionally, as there is discussion of using this evaluation system with merit pay, IPEGS would cause competition for raises, and this competition will most likely create antagonism between teachers. Teachers who are competitive and antagonistic are less likely to work together. Berliner and Biddle in The Manufactured Crisis agree that collaboration amongst teachers is more effective in improving education than competition.

Glasser cites Deming as saying that an effective manager wants to pay employees well, not try to figure out how to pay the employees the least amount possible. IPEGS has the built in threat of raises being withheld at the whim of an administrator.

But the question remains whether there is a less coercive evaluation system than our current system or IPEGS, and whether such an evaluation system would encourage collaboration. In Quality Schools, Glasser argues that self-evaluation is far more effective in improving education and fostering collaboration than evaluation by others, whether they be peers or superiors.

Glasser further cites Deming as saying that if an employee is willing to go through an honest, self-evaluation process, then that employee should be considered “good”, not just “proficient”. Generous payment comes not just in the form of salary, but also in the freedom to allow for honest self-evaluations which encourage teachers to figure out for themselves how to do better, one way being collaboration.

Deming goes further to say that yearly evaluations should be abolished completely. He argues that evaluating an employee is too late in the process of quality improvement. To improve, organizations should be constantly analyzing their processes. In the case of education, this would require subject area, grade level and vertical team discussion and collaboration, efforts sorely lacking in our schools.

Sadly, administrators in MDCPS are also subjected to coercive, yearly evaluations. Not surprisingly, our administrators often resort to coercive tactics with teachers so that they can fulfill yearly goals. For example, if an administrator records writing improvement in yearly goal-setting, he or she might inflict extra standardized testing on public school students who are already tested significantly more than private school students, with no positive result. In the effort to move up on the ladder, administrators sometimes suffer short-term thinking upon their schools and themselves. Administrators should not be blamed for this behavior, however, as they are damaged by the same, emasculating, yearly evaluations teachers are.

My school was in the pilot program for IPEGS. Teachers scoffed about being marked "proficient", and have reported an entire school being evaluated that way. One teacher argued that IPEGS is designed to give management an excuse not to give people raises.

Administrators also asked to see daily lesson plans. I respectfully pointed out that teachers are not required by the 2006 - 2009 UTD/MDCPS Contract to write daily lesson plans, but may instead write long-term ones as I do. Our designated steward confirmed this. I wonder how many schools and teachers out there are unaware of this freedom, and have been forced to write lesson plans in a certain way.

Another element of the IPEGS end of the year interview was a review of professional development. In the past, teachers have been able to select when to take professional development classes, and how many to take at a time, banking extra work for future certification. I was told that, because I did not take classes during the school year in addition to professional development offered at school, I would be labeled as less than proficient in this part of my evaluation next year. It seems that this is just another effort to twist the screws into teachers.

Most importantly, administrators told staff that a core element of IPEGS is student performance on two additional, multiple choice, standardized tests in addition to the already excessive number of these tests that students are subjected to. Standardized tests, according to Glasser, are by definition low quality, and push short-term, individualistic thinking. Any time a computer evaluates a human, it is a low-quality evaluation. Instead of focusing on the improvement of the education process as a whole, as Deming would recommend, teachers play defensive and focus on teaching to the test. However, the IPEGS manual does not specify that assessments must be multiple choice, so this must be clarified across the county (see p. 40, Assessment on the 2007 version).

Some improvements have been made in the process. Originally, in the IPEGS end of the year interviews, we were asked to provide a parent log. I kept a record of my parent contacts in the electronic gradebook, but since there was no report to easily pull such records out of the database, teachers were forced to either to produce a report of their own by going into the gradebook and copying/pasting records of parent contact information, or to keep a separate record all year, both of which violate the paperwork reduction clause of the 2006 - 2009 UTD/MDCPS Contract . I requested that the administration coordinate the creation of a report for a parent log pulled from gradebook notes. This printout requirement was dropped, fortunately, from IPEGS.

People who wish to reform the public schools, including officials in our county, often say that they are trying to make schools more business-like by making them more accountable. On the other hand, a friend with an MBA says that Deming is now standard reading in business schools. What business school did these education officials go to? Their coercive business models are borrowed from the 1800’s, not the 21st century.

So are these officials who wish to increase the coerciveness of our evaluation system with IPEGS really trying to improve education, or are they trying to control teachers? Even worse, what if their goal actually to discourage teachers and destroy public education in our county?

I’d like to say that getting pegged, I mean, IPEGed, is a pleasurable experience, but anyone who has played dodgeball, or its more painfull cousin, burnball, knows that it is not. Being targeted with coercive evaluations never is, and that’s why IPEGS is bad for education and MDCPS.

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Works Cited

Out of the Crisis (Paperback)
by W. Edwards Deming (Author)

  • Paperback: 507 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (August 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262541157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262541152

The Quality School (Paperback)
by William Glasser (Author)

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; 3 Sub edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060952865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060952860

Schools Without Failure (Perennial Library) (Paperback)
by William Glasser (Author)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (November 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060803495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060803490

The Quality School Teacher: A Companion Volume to The Quality School (Paperback)
by William Glasser (Author)
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Rev Sub edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060952857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060952853

Merit pay links at the teachdade wiki