Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Teachscape: Oh, The Humanity!

Poking around on line during another snow delay led me to the wonderland that is Teachscape.

Teachscape (for those who aren't already familiar) is one of those special places where the manufactured crisis in education meets the opportunity to make money from it. It is one of the limbs of the Gates-funded teacher-evaluation push, a path to that special tomorrow where there's a videocam in every classroom and teachers watch videos of other teachers so that they can develop their personal strengths as teachers by teaching the same way other teachers teach.

Teachscape offers training seminars and massive support for teacher evaluation frameworks (Wisconsin teachers, for instance, are learning what it means to relax and enjoy the loving embrace of teachscape in their evaluation process).

Mostly what one sees in cruising the site is that this is the corporate view of education writ large on a website. Teachscape is one more embodiment of the idea that schools can be run exactly like corporations. And while there is much to be learned about that viewpoint by paging through the site, I'm only on a snow delay today and not an actual cancellation, so let's just focus on one subsection. It's a tab on the main page, and it screams corporate louder than anything else, because on that main page you can click to Observation and Evaluation Management, Professional Learning or--

Talent Management. And when you click on THAT, you arrive at the section titled Human Capital Management.

The section starts by posing four scenarios that schools "needlessly" face. 1) A great teacher feels unrecognized and unsupported, so she leaves the profession. 2) A great principal retires and the district has to scramble find someone who will continue the work this leader started. 3) Students in a high-needs school need better teachers to help them make up their behindness. 4) "District administrators want to build accountability and task management into their strategic planning process and include progress reporting at all levels, but aren’t sure where to start." (I directly quoted #4 because it doesn't really translate into English).

But never fear--

With Teachscape’s human capital management solution, leading districts can proactively and strategically align resources and employee goals with overall objectives to plan for situations such as these so the district can be successful in meeting the needs of every one of its students.

Teachscape offers several products-- Teachscape Reflect, Learn and Advance. This is basically Teachscape Tall, Grand, and Venti

Reflect appears to offer guidance and help in evaluation and observation, aligned to your district goals. With Learn, we throw in lesson plans, a library of recorded teaching examples, and the video surveillance recording to build a local library. And with Venti we... well, we use all the tools in the other two systems plus some sort of rigorous fairy dust

to move to the next level of human capital management. This talent management system helps the district build organizational effectiveness by managing and developing employee skills, planning for succession in key positions, and assigning goals strategically to improve retention and advance the district’s objectives.

These programs are going to record, evaluate, measure, map and just generally micro-manage the hell out of your school's human capital. It will also strategically develop in-house talent, and when I connect several dots I get the feeling that we're once again assuming that teachers need a career path to advance into administrative or supervisory jobs because they couldn't possibly stay happy in a classroom role.

We can click on a research tab to see how all of this is supported by-- well, wait. We've got a link to some TNTP papers. Apparently Teachscape doesn't seem to know the difference between research and a literature search. Teachscape is the student in your class who writes "Coca-cola is proven to be a superior soft drink" and offers a research link to a Coke ad. So Teachscape fails on research and critical thinking skills. Will it surprise you to learn that elsewhere on the site, Gates Foundation papers are also cited?

I could provide more quotes, but they all read like the stuff above. It's clear that the closest anybody at Teachscape has ever been to a teacher is when photographing them in the wild. It's equally clear that when we want to improve teaching, the last people to consult are actual teachers. And it's clear that somewhere there are several failed companies missing their Human Resource department.

In fact, it's a good thing that "teach" is in the name, because nothing in the copy of the Human Capital Management materials would lead you to think that we were talking about schools or teaching or, least of all, places where young humans were sent to learn and grow as individuals. Teachscape defies satire because it is so ridiculously divorced from the real life activities and concerns of teachers or students or any other human beings that it seems like a joke all on its own. Except that it isn't. Wisconsin teachers, I am so sorry.


  1. Thank you. I searched "Teachscape sucks" and found this. It has been that kind of day as an evaluated teacher from New Jersey...

  2. Thank you, for your review! Our schools administration chose this for us this year. Yay!! I don't know how much longer I'll keep teaching with all of this corporate strategy.

  3. Thank you, for your review! Our schools administration chose this for us this year. Yay!! I don't know how much longer I'll keep teaching with all of this corporate strategy.

  4. Thank you, for your review! Our schools administration chose this for us this year. Yay!! I don't know how much longer I'll keep teaching with all of this corporate strategy.

  5. My partner is adding teachscape data in the form of word docs because, into the second year, the app's forms don't work. There is nothing more moronic in the IT field than buying a product and using documents in place of data collection. Maybe our school district should just invent in a whole lot of ms office licenses instead. At this pace. one really DOES have to wonder what they will do with the data once the actually get the forms to work.

  6. OMG! My principal who actually told me he didn't want to be bothered and why couldn't I never bring him any troubled students, that I ask too many questions as a first year teacher in his school - the ridiculous absent for half a year principal, has used my teachscape as a revenge tool. He entered a bunch of lies, and then shut it down so that I can't respond. The HR office manager says the rules of Teachscape is that you can't grieve your evaluation? What a bunch of crap! Because I'm not a tenured teacher, the union won't help. God save teachers. Trapped! I've tried and tried to get into a different type of profession, but with an education degree and little experience, its a tough up hill battle. Pray for me, please!