Sunday, March 16, 2014

To Criticize Your Boss . . . Or Not?

So, recently as part of the assessment of the GoMath pilot program, the teachers in the pilot program were asked to fill out a survey regarding their thoughts about GoMath and Saxon Math (see here).

Regardless of what you think about the merits of either math program, what jumped out at me upon reading these surveys were two things.  First, teachers were required to put their names on these sheets.  In other words, they were not anonymous.  Now this was basically putting the teachers into a position of potentially criticizing the choice of their employer who was pushing for the GoMath program to be adopted district wide.  There are very few employees who would feel comfortable criticizing the choices of their employers in such a manner and potentially being regarded as a troublemaker or being retaliated against.  Many employees will simply not be honest under such intimidating circumstances.

Second, in the last question regarding making a choice between Saxon Math or GoMath, there is a phrase in the parentheses that reads “Only submit the comments you are willing to be accountable for.”  This, of course, could easily be interpreted to be a veiled threat of retaliation if a teacher (who remember is identified by name) happened to disagree with the course of action that the administration wanted to see adopted and had the audacity to document such disagreement on the survey.  Not surprisingly, a number of teachers chose not to write any comments in this section.  I don't blame them.

I can tell you from personal experience that if you want an employee to give you honest feedback, you solicit such feedback on an anonymous basis and make it clear to them that there will be no possibility of retaliation for such feedback.  As a person who has served over 23 years in the military and filled out an uncountable number of surveys created by the military, I have never seen a "command climate" survey (which essentially asks for feedback regarding the leadership abilities of a commander and his or her treatment of subordinates) or any other survey asking for feedback about some military program that was NOT anonymous.  Why?  Because when you want honest feedback from someone who is in a subordinate position (such as lower ranking soldiers to those of higher rank, or teachers to administrators or any employee to employer), you solicit anonymous feedback and make them comfortable that there will be no possibility of retaliation.

The only way to ensure that the teachers were honest in their opinions about the GoMath program was if they were not in fear for their jobs and/or of being retaliated against by having to submit their opinions with their names attached.  Again, the teachers were asked to potentially criticize the choices of their employers and be in fear of their employers’ reaction.

In order to ensure that this was a fair assessment of the GoMath program, the administration should have conducted a survey that was entirely anonymous, and it should have clearly stated that the administration sought the honest opinion of the teachers, both good or bad, and that they would not be subject to any sort of reprisal for their opinions.  The fact that they were told to “Only submit the comments you are willing to be accountable for” makes the survey entirely suspect.  This is simply not the way that an employer obtains the honest opinions of their employees.

If GoMath truly is the best math program for the students of District 201, there should have been no concern about obtaining the honest opinions of the teachers.

1 comment:

  1. i couldn't agree more! teachers need to feel like they can share their opinions freely and openly.
    Kristan Crouch