Teachers tend to view formal observations as nothing more than a dog-and-pony show. Adminstrators set up a time to come watch a teacher put into practice a number of skill sets and behaviors. If the teacher is not tenured, she will be formally observed three to four times during the year. If the teacher is tenured, she might not be formally observed at all depending on the cycle.
The current observation process in most schools lacks any real value. The administrators come, check of the list, and give the teacher a summary to sign. Very little professional dialogue happens, and very little professional growth happens.
Though the observation process ought to evolve, perhaps moving away from the format which has come to dominate our schools' culture, all teachers should be treated the same. There are some within our profession who believe that once a teacher achieves tenure, she should not have to go through a yearly formal observation. The argument goes that based on tenure, a teacher has determined efficacy and should be given professional courtesy.
Yet our non-tenured teachers, many of whom could outperform their peers, are not given any "professional courtesy." And, they shouldn't be. But neither should a teacher who has been in the classroom for fifteen years.
Annual performance reviews are necessary to maintain the integrity of our profession. In part, our profession loses credibility when those among us demand to rest on our laurels. More importantly, teachers who have attained tenure should be leading the new teachers towards a more professional path. The best way to accomplish this is to welcome a yearly formal observation process. When a second year teacher who has just had his third observation of the year looks across the hall and sees poor teaching from a tenured teacher who will not be formally observed at all, he feels discouraged.
In the end, the observation process needs to change. The dog-and-pony shows need to end, and meaningful dialogue needs to happen. If administrators were able to complete far more walk-throughs than the current system allows, they would have a much better sense of the teaching taking place in their buildings.