Kate E. O'Hara, Ph.D., assistant professor of instructional technology, discusses her new book Teacher Evaluation: The Charge and the Challenges.
The Box: Why take on the topic of teacher evaluation for your new book?
O'Hara: Teacher evaluation is one of the most fiercely debated topics in education today—and a topic that really touches me on both a personal and professional level. As a former New York City teacher, I identify with the struggles of the classroom teacher, urban teachers in particular. But in recent years, my NYIT graduate students, many of whom are in-service public school teachers, relate stories of work environments and practices that are demoralizing, to say the least, to an extent that is well beyond what I ever experienced. I felt compelled to write about it.
The Box: How does your book differ from others about teacher evaluation and current challenges facing educators?
O'Hara: Honestly there aren't any books I'm aware of that speak directly to the injustices happening to both pre- and in-service teachers. There are books that describe evaluation frameworks or best practices but there isn't a book that "talks back" to the national rhetoric about teacher evaluation and accountability measures. Chapters in my book address issues from a theoretical standpoint and analyze evaluation practices. I also included stories rarely told by mainstream media about the struggles of those entering the profession and tales from the classroom, which take into account the harmful impact of the current practices on students. The voices of students are so important yet seldom heard. Throughout the book a message of hope and change is conveyed as well as possibilities for new models and methods.
The Box: What's the perfect sound bite or tweet (140 characters or under) that sums up your book?
O'Hara: Teacher evaluation—talking back to the national rhetoric against flawed measures—through critical dialogue and possibilities for change.
The Box: Now that your book is out, what else do you have coming up?
O'Hara: There is still so much to be said about teacher evaluation, especially in New York with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's agenda. I'm currently part of a project with colleagues from City University of New York, State University of New York, and Teachers College of Columbia University. We conducted a participatory action research project to develop and implement an alternative scoring tool and protocol for pre-service teachers. Our study emphasizes the social justice implications of performance assessments, in particular edTPA, a standardized assessment of teaching now required by many states, including New York as of May 2014.
I'm also an autoethnographer, so I always have projects related to instructional technology in the works! Despite the constraints imposed on the teaching profession, I'm dedicated to finding ways to help educators engage in the empowering use of technology for teaching and learning.
The Box: As a woman, what's your take on doing it all (teaching, scholarship, family) and how can women help each other to achieve this balance?
O'Hara: Women put too much pressure on themselves to do it all—probably because we can do it all successfully! Balance is essential and only we ourselves can set the boundaries. We can help each other by moving past a competitive mindset and instead move toward a collaborative mindset. I say collaborative in the sense that as women we need to support one another's personal and professional goals—and perhaps most importantly, always take time to celebrate one another's successes.
You're invited to attend Kate E. O'Hara's book talk and panel discussion on Monday, March 16, 4:15-6:15 p.m., The CUNY Graduate Center, 365 5th Ave., New York City.