With the end of the recent teachers strike in Chicago, I wanted to jump in and offer my two cents on one of the issues the union was grappling with: teacher evaluation. Shh, don't say that too loud, it might get you murked in some circles.
Let's do a quick tour through some of the teacher evaluation highlights:
- Merit-Based pay, when teachers are given bonuses based on their students exceptional test scores
- Value-Added, when student's standardized test scores are used to indicate the effectiveness of a teacher
- The US Department of Ed's Teacher Incentive Fund, a competitive grant to develop the next wave of teacher evaluation systems
As a former teacher, it's not that I'm against evaluation. As a matter of fact, I think teachers welcome comments on their job performance and ways they can improve. I also think that good teachers will do whatever they need to do to make sure their students are successful. The problem comes when teachers' jobs are tied to student performance or, in the case of California and New York, teachers are publicly lambasted for their test scores. While I do not advocate for bad or ineffective teachers keeping their jobs, there are too many human capital factors (special education needs, family income, living situation, etc.) that go into students and their test scores.
So, here's my suggestion (in case you were wondering): A certain percentage should be tied to student growth, not test scores. Another percentage should be tied to principal and master teacher observations, both formal and informal. And a final portion should be assessed based on the teacher setting and meeting certain attainable goals.
In my opinion, a teacher's worth cannot be determined by some stanine score on a standardized test. We must come up with thoughtful and fair evaluations. After all, is the purpose of evaluation to help teachers improve or throw them under the bus?