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How to Survive Marzano and the iObservation

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Clearly, some children are getting left behind. Let's hope that our new strategies and teacher growth plans will help us reverse this trend.

Clearly, some children are getting left behind. Let's hope that our new strategies and teacher growth plans will help us reverse this trend.

iObservation: A pain in the assessment

Teachers in several states are adjusting to the Marzano endorsed iObservation which documents how well they are performing in the classroom. Florida has embraced Dr. Robert Marzano's Teacher Evaluation Model which is linked to his method for developing expert teachers. So, this vacation, instead of just relaxing with family, I am also preoccupied with memories of fellow teachers stressed or in tears due to the addition of yet more responsibility heaped onto their plates. If you know a teacher ( or for that matter, an administrator ) you may also be aware of the fact that the job requirements have become increasingly impossible to meet. For the past several years, more and more demands have been placed on teachers and administrators to increase student achievement. No Child Left Behind and FCAT goals will be harder than ever to reach. While we all agree that student achievement is the primary goal; we don't always agree on the way to reach that goal. Marzano is an author, reseacher, and CEO; he is not a teacher. The official Marzano websites are replete with access to countless workshops, teacher training, books, DVDs and other products. His research laboratory has amassed tons of statistics on student learning, assessment, strategies, learning goals and rubrics; all in an effort to increase student achievement by helping teachers master the dozens of strategies deemed necessary to create the highly-engaged, highly-effective classroom. Those wishing to be fully "baptized" in his methods can now obtain a Master's degree in The Art and Science of Teaching via Wilkes University in Pennsylvania (shall I save you a seat?)

As a recent recipient of Marzano teacher training, I've had a chance to observe firsthand the scope of changes to come; the entire system is being overhauled. Some strategies are just a repackaging of what good teachers have always done, others are very new to most of us. Admittedly, the new ideas have rekindled my efforts to be the best teacher I can be; yes, even this ole' dog is excited about learning a few new tricks. Many teachers are feeling anxious and overwhelmed by the rapid pace of new procedures on top of the already heavy burden of fulfilling their daily duties. Administrators are doing their best to allay teachers' fears by squeezing as much training as possible into an already tightly packed schedule. Seasoned pros are questioning their ability to measure up to these new standards being issued faster than you can say "iObservation." Will their years of earning the coveted "Distinguished" performance rating translate well in this new evauation language? Will this "new and improved" way of teaching really pay off in the end? I've seen more than a few exciting "changes" come down the pike since I began teaching in the early 80's. For now, I remain cautiously optimistic that through this process we will glean the best of the research and neatly package and dispose of those elements we discover are not giving us "The best bang for the buck."

Unique and innovative are vocabulary words that I'm becoming most familiar with now that my teaching will be graded on a rubric or scale that essentially rates me based on how well I'm implementing the selected strategies that have a causal link to student achievement based on research findings. Will I score in the Developing, Applying, or possibly even the highest category, Innovating? Will those categories be dovetailed into yet another evaluative form? Will the fact that I teach special education students affect my overall rating? How directly will my pay and job security be based on my ability to remember every important detail during the administrator's visits?

If you're familiar with the Marzano method and the iObservation, I'd like to hear your feedback. Those of you in the trenches can serve us well by sharing what's worked for you, and what hasn't. Many of us are feeling the growing pains that come with learning this system. Still, I'm confident that together, shoulder to shoulder, we will survive this transition. Until then, I'll be coming up with unique and innovative ways to survive Marzano.

Learning goals and individualized rubrics let the teacher and students know exactly how much progress is being made. Visual cues help poor readers remember the goals. "The Student will"  will be replaced with "The Student will be able to..."

Learning goals and individualized rubrics let the teacher and students know exactly how much progress is being made. Visual cues help poor readers remember the goals. "The Student will" will be replaced with "The Student will be able to..."

A bulletin board to support the learning goal gives students a chance to see and tell about what they are learning.

A bulletin board to support the learning goal gives students a chance to see and tell about what they are learning.

The Jury's Still Out...


John on April 29, 2018:

I despise this system. It's so easy for a reviewer to inject personal bias into the system. My obsevations are full of comments like "student talked quietly with another student and teacher didnt notice" or "I thought his class was loud so I decided to do a walkthrough".

Old man on March 29, 2018:

I'm glad Marzano came along. It now allows me to identify, with absolute certainty, the administrators that know nothing about teaching. If you allow yourself to be defined by someone that has never spent a day in your shoes, or in your classroom, or in any classroom for that matter, you are a fool. If you follow the Learning Sciences process you will never be a good teacher. Your students will lose interest in you and the dispassionate process. I only hope Marzano makes his money and retires quickly and his non-researched and uninspiring methods disappear quickly.

Tyrion L on January 21, 2018:

Marzano assumes the teachers and admin have an unlimited amount of time for the process and Iobservation seems like it is more interested in selling than helping.

Lola White on January 10, 2018:

I am glad I feel the same. Love to teach, but hate to be micromanaged. It drains me and doesn't leave any energy for teaching. Can't wait to retire. I guarantee ALL teachers in my school feel the same. They turned into survivors. Excellent teachers got minimally effective evaluations . My own children are strongly advised not to go into teaching . Teachers shortage is huge. I can tell you more, but after I retire.

Tere on March 09, 2017:

Can we sue the state for implementing "Marzano?" I have to teach another 7 years, and I can't wait to get out!

Liz on February 03, 2016:

I came back to teach part time this year and will never be so glad to leave. Marzano is a nightmare. The man has never taught. His 41 elements, while some are common sense, have become a formalized nightmare. Common sense -- not Marzano and I do not buy into the big data driven nonsense. I teach high school. I am not a factory foreman begin micromanaged by a CEO's business model. And, the money this guy is making is crime. Talk about snake oil, smoke and mirrors. I just feel sorry for the poor guy who has to make a living for a few more years. He or she is stuck if their district ties evaluations to this con man.

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Carol on November 30, 2015:

I teacher Kindergarten and am ready to find another job. The "crap" that we are made to do is NOT teaching. The salary is not worth it! I am done!

Carmen on September 29, 2015:

Because the Marzano "muddle" has never been clearly explained, I find it demoralizing that my evaluation is based on a constantly changing instrument. Monitoring, procedural, declarative, domains, scales, targets...the whole program is jargon filled, with very little peer research. It is placing educators in a box; it is making us robots. It leaves very little room for those moments of teaching that are sheer magic!

Susan on September 24, 2015:

I am totally offended that with 33 years of doing something I USED to love has been changed by someone who taught high school for one year and admits he can't teach, stolen all the techniques implemented by other teachers who could teach (for which districts are paying millions of dollars for) and had the nerve to write a book called"The Art of Teaching"-unfortunately the results will not be realized till we have fallen behind in where we wanted to go.

Am on October 25, 2014:

It's ridiculous and not appropriate for early childhood where self evaluation is completely NOT developmentally appropriate. That is why no kindergarten lessons using the Marzano elements have been posted.

riecks (author) on October 18, 2014:

Teachers protesting will have little impact (imho) unless parents and students get involved and remain diligent in the pursuit of sensible teaching/grading practices. The amount of time that most teachers have to spend planning, testing, evaluating scales and student work, reteaching, retesting, etc. is just overwhelming. I've seen more tears from teachers in the last couple of years than you can imagine. I'm stressed to the max and am glad that after 32 years I can escape when it becomes too much for me to cope with.

Emily on October 17, 2014:

Are teachers going to let this millionaire win or unite in Washington D.C and protest this? Anyone have time this coming summer!?

Poppa on August 28, 2014:

I am a relatively new teacher and I too feel like I am be suffocated by this system. I love teaching but these rigorous evaluations make it seem like I am an actress in a movie with scripted lines every time I step in front of the classroom. This blog makes me feel so much better. It sometimes seems like everyone is on board with marzano except for me. It is a relief to know there are people like me out there. I am sick of being micromanaged in this job. If it weren't for my students I would be back working in retail.

karmen2001 on August 23, 2014:

How did an old man, who barely taught, and is a "Meta-Researcher"(one who looks at other peoples research) become so important in education. My 35 year old doctor told me he had no idea how to interpret our Marzano 6 page report card. If he can not figure it out, we are not effectively telling parents how their children are doing. We don't really know what to tell them anyway with the scales scores.

riecks on April 18, 2014:

Gone Girl,

I, too, teach in Florida and have just started administering my last FCAT. I'm seeing veteran teachers leave early due to exactly the same reasons we're discussing here. I'm sorry that you've decided to quit but am happy that as a para you will continue to use your talents and experience to help those students and teachers cope with this continuing onslaught of testing. I'm holding out hope that things will improve for us all.

Gone Girl on April 16, 2014:

I am a 10-year teaching veteran in Florida and this is my third and final year with iObservation and Marzano. I quit. I'm taking a $28k pay cut to take a para job. I'm happy with my decision. Dear Mr. Marzano: You win.

Carly on February 24, 2014:

Marzano is a hack who's ruining public education. Everyone is afraid to speak out about it. All the surveys don't give clear choices. Do you think Marzano is a). Super Awesome!!

b). Really Awesome!!

c). Totally Awesome!!

I've watched my dream job be demolished. The kids are over tested, apathetic, and disconnected.

I want to be a waitress now.

Eldon on February 22, 2014:

I am in a district that started using Marzano and iObservation two years (we adopted early to "play" with it before we were forced to.)

I'll admit, at first the Marzano model is enough to make you cry or drink - Domain 1 alone has 41 elements.

However, once you become accustomed to the Marzano thinking strategy and planning model, it's really not that bad. The is frustration in rebuilding lesson and unit plans to match the model - and that is an enormous pain...

Emily on February 13, 2014:

We began using Marzano in my NJ school district in response to new Teacher Evaluation legislation passed recently. Even though I'm an 18 year veteran, I already work like a crazy person at my job, especially since the Common Core Standards were introduced a few years ago. Now, I am working even harder to implement Learning Goals, Learning Goal Scales (I stumbled across this article while doing research on LGS for a Marzano Inservice I'll be teaching soon for colleagues), etc. Much of the expectations that The Marzano framework expects are not all that dissimilar from what I've been doing for most of my career. However, it still adds more work to my day, and I find it exhausting.

Laura on January 30, 2014:

Our school district just started using Marzano this year and it is being tied to our teacher evaluation. Started the school year with 1 day of training on how to navigate the iObservation website. The training we get is minimal from admin and comes mainly in the form of emails telling us what videos we should watch and how many action steps we should be creating and fulfilling - oh, and make sure you have comments and attachments of all your work in the classroom for your mid-year review. More than once, we get an email from admin telling us how Teacher X discovered something on iObservation that we should be doing (yet they didn't even know it was there). How is this making me a better teacher? MOST of the Marzano strategies are nothing new -just repackaged and sold to our school for a nice price. What a racket! I think Marzano is more for admin than teachers - most of our admin were never classroom teachers - they were school counselors, reading specialists...etc.

Cheryl Haviland on January 04, 2014:

This too shall pass!

Mark on November 29, 2013:

I was told Marzano only taught for 1 year. Can anyone confirm this?

FCA on August 29, 2013:

I have to sacrifice from personal and family time just to work on Marzano's stuff instead of preparing a creative, interesting lesson. District adding too much work for what? This make me disappointed on teaching. All the DQ's can be guidelines, but not adding more to what we have. I don't mind to work extra time to prepare mi lesson, but teachers aren't getting paid for staying in school long hours preparing just for the observation and requirements. It's okay to have it but not in a painful way. Actually, we all need a lot of prayer to overcome this craziness!. Here's the list: Preparing the classroom and materials , lesson plans, Teaching time, School duties, IPDP, Faculty Meetings, Team meetings, calling parents, Parent meetings, school-wide activities after hours, plus Marzano... who in the world? Are we slaves? Too much!!!!!! If we don't simplify this, there will be a lack of teachers in the nation cause the word is spreading and college students are getting frustrated before getting into the classroom and dropping out. We need to work hard without slavery! Amen!

riecks (author) on April 06, 2013:

Vanessa, I hear similar comments from other teachers. It can sometimes feel like putting on a "Dog and Pony Show" instead of feeling natural when we are teaching. Some of the Marzano strategies have begun to feel natural now that I've been using them for over a year but much of the teaching just feels fake and very forced. I'm hoping the stress will decrease once we get more used to it. I hope you can hold onto to the best part of working with your little ones while you transition into this new method of teaching. Keep us posted:)

Vanessa on April 06, 2013:

I am a kindergarten teacher. Every time I get observed by my administrators, I get stressed about doing everything the Marzano way instead of being myself. I used to enjoy teaching and feel relax teaching the students. Now, I am overwhelmed trying to pretend to be Marzano. I feel my mind is so overloaded with the paperwork to have any time to be creative for the students.

riecks (author) on March 16, 2013:

Believe me, I feel your pain! I've been teaching for over 29 years and still have such a passion for working with students. I teach special education but am also certified to teach general elementary education as well. Although I believe in and use many of the strategies used by Marzono and looked for in iobservation, the burden of how it's all being implemented is ruining education for not only teachers but for their administrators as well. I'm doing my best to hang in there until things thing I've learned in all my years of teaching...things will change; hopefully for the better. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and let's continue to reach out to each other during these especially trying times.

CB on March 11, 2013:

I have been overwhelmed by the requirements imposed by iobservation. The workshops and forms required take away from the time I would be giving to my students. I am most angry regarding the amount of money our district is spending and what the Marzano organization is reaping. I would like to know which politician gave the heads up to Marzano so he would develop a system that schools would need to latch onto for Race to the Top money.

Markkt12 on February 14, 2013:

This is undoubtedly distrating from my ability to teacher student well. Most of my time is spent on the process and requirements of Marzanos system rather than preparing, planning and actually teaching my students. I'm not a math genious but claiming this system is causal seems more smoke and mirrors marketing than actual educational research. Sorry I'm not a fan

NJTeach on October 31, 2012:

Here's my deal. I am blessed by not NEEDING to work as my husband makes a good salary and we have had successful investments. I do not NEED to work. I have been a freelance graphic designer for 15 years and when the local high school added a graphic design program, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to share my love of the field with students. I thoroughly enjoy my students and they have learned so much in just 3 months. I got a temporary teaching certification and planned to obtain a permanent certification and my masters in education. However, I get physically sick and to the point of tears just trying to read and comprehend the iObservation crap. I'm not opposed to improving my skills, but seriously, it's ridiculous for me to answer questions about my performance on stuff I've never heard of. Can't we just use plain English and common communication? I think it would be more enjoyable to read a legal document than this garbage! And all the demo videos I saw were of early elementary and pollyanna teachers. How about including some reality? I've got students with parents in prison, who didn't get breakfast and wondering where they'll sleep tonight and you want me to tell you how my moving around the room is going to make them learn better?

Gue on September 11, 2012:

I have been teaching over 20 years. My experience with this new evaluation system has been overwhelming to the point of getting physically ill. In my opinion this is not a fair system to evaluate a teacher. I think someone must be making a lot of money with all these workshops and the materials that go with it. I also think is a way of replacing teachers with more years of experience and a higher salary.

rb101182 from Los Angeles, CA on December 28, 2011:

I've heard it's getting harder and harder to be a teacher today because of this. I'm curious as to what others think also.

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