There's been a clear shift in education politics in recent years. Democrats are backing away from their long standing, "best-buddy" status with the teachers' unions. Al Sharpton toured the country with Newt Gingrich and together they complained about lack luster teachers in American schools. Al went on the Sunday morning news shows and complained about teachers in urban schools who took naps at their desks. Go, Al!
We now have bipartisan support for improving methods for evaluating teachers.That's a good thing. We've got to identify the nap takers and the slackers and encourage them to find employment in another line of work. We've got to reward the teachers that do a good job.
For teachers to really become professions that deserve the respect of a community, they have to follow the rules of other professionals. In the past, teachers claimed professional privileges when it suited them, but hid behind union rules when it didn't. I'm glad that we're finally seeing the end to "peek-a-boo professionalism".
Alright, now the tough part. How do we identify the good teachers and give them their just rewards? How do we weed out the chaff?
There are various formulas that are being employed, all of which rely heavily on the student test scores. Some matrices examine how much a student improved over a course of year. If a student was 50 percent above the average in grade three and went to 60 percent above average in grade four, her teacher gets positive points. There are problems though. Should the poverty level of the student body be part of the algorithm? What about teachers who already have the highest performing students? Those kids are already in the 99% percentile. Can't improve past that.
Harry B wrote about the problems with using test scores as a method for evaluating teachers this week.
I agree that solely using test scores to evaluate teachers is problematic. However, I don't have a problem with tests scores being one factor among many when evaluating teachers. I do think that test scores are an excellent method for evaluating overall schools. Every parent that has some discretion in determining where they live knows that. Administrators should be evaluated, as well as teachers, and we should use test scores as a yardstick for them.
Steve gets a 360 evaluation every year. That means he is reviewed by his peers, the clients, his supervisors, and people in different department. All together, he is reviewed by ten or twelve people every year. I would like to see teachers get evaluated in such a fashion. I would like to see parents weighing in, as well. After all, they are the client.
This is a fascinating time for education politics. This is the first time in ages that both the right and the left agree that change needs to occur. We're just sorting out the details.