In Defense of Teacher Evaluations
There is so much in the news lately about teacher evaluations, especially in New York State. Many people, in and out of the field of education, have their views and opinions on the matter, whether they should exist or not and what they should look like. When it comes down to it, people want to make sure that our education system is as strong as it can be and that our teachers are at the top of their game.
Up until the this year, evaluations on teachers were made at a district level at the discretion of administration. With so much wiggle room, it is understandable that the state would want to implement some sort of evaluation to check on the educators running the classrooms and make sure that there is some consistency throughout the state. With the implementation of the Common Core Standards and an increased expectation of the performance of our students, it is natural that we must increase the expectation of our teachers and therefore find a way to measure their effectiveness.
But as we have noticed with state testing in the past few years, with the "Pineapples don't have Sleeves" debacle and the fact that standardized testing may not be a fair representation of student ability, finding a way to measure effectiveness of teachers can be tedious. And without a "formula" fully in place and measurement given, data can be misconstrued and misused, as we saw in New York City earlier this year.
The question is not whether teacher evaluations should exist, because quite honestly the answer is undoubtedly yes; the question becomes how should the teachers be evaluated? Any teacher doing his or her job is not going to be concerned with being evaluated and shouldn't be concerned even when the evaluation states that there is room for improvement. There is always room to improve and the best teachers recognize that opportunity for growth. The best teachers recognize that this evaluation and observation of their work is only for the betterment of the entire education system. Teachers who disagree likely are the teachers that the evaluation system wants to find and improve or weed out.
So if we all agree that evaluation is OK, what we should then also agree on is that evaluation is fair. How much should be determined by students test scores, especially when the tests have been a little scary to say the least. Imagine your rating in your profession determined on the outcome of a race between a Pineapple and a Hare. Just like student abilities and future success aren't always determined by a test score, teachers abilities aren't either. That's where we need to be careful. Teaching is far beyond how students perform on tests and a teacher's ability to teach and reach students and pass on knowledge is much more than can seen by crunching a formula. So while I believe in teacher evaluations and am all for their implementation in the classroom, I ask that we consider what we know about good teachers and determine what is measurable about those qualities and determine a fair evaluation system based upon that, not just on test scores. When a fair and accurate evaluation is developed, we can then make a determination on the effectiveness of a teacher.