FHS Principal Reacts to National Evaluation News

Goldfarb talks about the latest teacher evaluation discussion and reminds the community of upcoming school events.

Editor's Note: This was written by Fairfax High School Principal Dave Goldfarb and sent by to parents and students as part of a weekly email chain.

Fairfax Community –

This week’s message comes to you earlier than usual as a reminder that all Fairfax High School students will be released today at 12:05. Our early dismissal allows our staff to participate in meetings and professional development.

We want to thank the students, parents, and community members who nominated a Fairfax High School staff member for our Teacher of the Year. It is wonderful to read the many accounts of the impact of our staff members with their students. Teachers’ work with students is a combination of inspiration, motivation, and a whole lot of perspiration. It is clear that our community appreciates the work of our teachers and staff, and we thank you for the ongoing support. As you know, such appreciation is not universal, as educators – and teachers in particular – have been overly criticized in the national discussion.

Speaking personally, I find the national discussion regarding teacher evaluation and performance to be very disconcerting. Many policymakers and pundits have called for – and created – new systems of teacher evaluation as a lever by which to improve our education system. Some new systems include performance raises for teachers whose students experience gains on standardized tests. Others look to punish teachers whose students perform below expectations on specific tests. I do not expect this structural change will lead to the desired results because it only brings teachers fear and pressure, not any capacity for them to develop their craft.

When I see the emphasis on standardized test data or the call of the business community demanding standardized student outcomes, I fear such policies will drive instruction to become too uniform. It does not honor the professional judgment of teachers. I also find conflict between a focus on standardized tests with the equally loud call for incorporating 21stcentury skills of collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.

Teaching is a complex craft which brings together several different areas of knowledge (content, pedagogy, social development of adolescents) as well as skills (facilitating and presenting, inspiring and motivating, relationship building). The work of teachers regularly extends beyond the school day, as they create lesson plans and grade papers at home. As a principal, I have had an opportunity to observe our teachers at work in classrooms, conferences, and meetings in a manner that is closer to any other environment in which I have previously worked. Our teachers work collaboratively in subject-matter teams and departments, sharing lesson ideas and reflecting upon their experiences. They embody the spirit of continuous improvement and model the learning process that should be at the center of a student’s experience.

At the end of the day, when I walk from my office to my car, I often think of the work I have seen in our school that day. The short walk, only slightly removed from the hustle earlier in the day, is a wonderful stroll, filled with memories of the staff and students I have seen at work. I like to say about our school, “Miracles happen here every day.” But these miracles don’t happen in a single day; they are a product of sustained effort over time. And they happen because of the tremendous efforts of our staff who guide, support, and motivate the efforts of our students.

SUBSTITUTE ADMINISTRATOR: Richard Griffin, a retired assistant principal who worked 21 years at West Springfield High School, will be working at our school through the end of next week. Mr. Griffin is filling in for Baek Chong, who is now the principal at Twain Middle School. We expect to have a full-time assistant principal in place in January for the subschool serving students with last names beginning with Huo-Men.

BAND FUNDRAISER: Have dinner at Chipotle at Kamp Washington on Tuesday, December 11th from 4-8pm and support FHS Bands!  All you have to do is show the flyer that can be found at fhsbands.org and 50% of your sale will benefit our band program. You can bring in an actual flyer, show the flyer on your smart phone, or JUST mention FHS Bands, and we’ll get credit. 

BASEBALL FUNDRAISER: Our baseball program is selling Christmas trees and wreaths by the football field snack bar on Rebel Run until they last. Sales are from 5:00-9:00 pm during the week and 9:00 am-9:00 pm on the weekends.

WRESTLING CLASSIC AT FHS: Good luck to the 400+ wrestlers and all of the teams as the 24th annual NOVA Wrestling Classic begins today!  The Classic is held at our school today and tomorrow, starting at 10 am each day. This year’s classic is sponsored by Final Auto Price.com, which is owned by 1997 Fairfax High School graduate, Elia Ahmadian. The proceeds from this tournament benefit all Fairfax athletic teams. Come out later today or all day tomorrow and see some of the finest wrestlers in the region!


Dave Goldfarb


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