All-star roster of education researchers: Test scores unreliable, unfair and unhelpful in evaluating teachers

In the midst of a controversial LA Times series linking teacher performance in that district to test scores, a new briefing paper was released today by the Economic Policy Institute cautioning against the use of test scores, the Value Added Model, to judge teacher performance.

The 27-page paper  — by a blue ribbon collection of educaion researchers including Eva L. Baker, Paul E. Barton, Linda Darling-Hammond, Edward Haertel, Helen F. Ladd , Robe rt L. Linn, Diane Ravitch, Richard Rothstein, Richard J. Shavelson, and Lorrie A. Shepard -  lists many negative impacts from judging teachers largely on student test scores. They also point to studies that cite the unreliability of scores.

My first response to this paper is wonder if there is any school system with the time, resources or staffing to conduct the thoughtful and deeper evaluations that these researchers recommend. The comprehensive evaluation model they suggest could be applied in many professions, except that it calls for resources and time that I don’t think too many companies have any longer. And I certainly don’t think schools do in this current bleak climate that will likely persist for a few more years.

Here are key passages, but please read the entire paper. I think many of you will be applauding its position. Also, I have added the link to the LA Times investigation, which is a powerful piece of journalism and creating quite a stir. So, forget about the wash and the grocery store, read both of these and let us know what you think:

A review of the technical evidence leads us to conclude that, although standardized test scores of students are one piece of information for school leaders to use to make judgments  about teacher effectiveness, such scores should be only a part of an overall comprehensive evaluation. Some states are now considering plans that would give as much as 50% of the weight in teacher evaluation and compensation decisions to scores on existing tests of basic skills in math and reading. Based on the evidence, we consider this unwise.

Any sound evaluation will necessarily involve a balancing of many factors that provide a more accurate view of what teachers in fact do in the classroom and how that contributes to student learning.

For a variety of reasons, analyses of VAM results have led researchers to doubt whether the methodology can accurately identify more and less effective teachers. VAM estimates have proven to be unstable across statistical models, years, and classes that teachers teach. One study found that across five large urban districts, among teachers who were ranked in the top 20% of effectiveness in the first year, fewer than a third were in that top group the next year, and another third moved all the way down to the bottom 40%. Another found that teachers’ effectiveness ratings in one year could only predict from 4% to 16% of the variation in such ratings in the following year.

Thus, a teacher who appears to be very ineffective in one year might have a dramatically different result the following year. The same dramatic fluctuations were found for teachers ranked at the bottom in the first year of analysis. This runs counter to most people’s notions that the true quality of a teacher is likely to change very little over time and raises questions about whether what is measured is largely a “teacher effect” or the effect of a wide variety of other factors.

A study designed to test this question used VAM methods to assign effects to teachers after controlling for other factors, but applied the model backwards to see if credible results were obtained. Surprisingly, it found that students’ fifth grade teachers were good predictors of their fourth grade test scores. Inasmuch as a student’s later fifth grade teacher cannot possibly have influenced that student’s fourth grade performance, this curious result can only mean that VAM results are based on factors other than teachers’ actual effectiveness.

VAM’s instability can result from differences in the characteristics of students assigned to particular teachers in a particular year, from small samples of students (made even less representative in schools serving disadvantaged students by high rates of student mobility), from other influences on student learning both inside and outside school, and from tests that are poorly lined up with the curriculum teachers are expected to cover, or that do not measure the full range of achievement of students in the class.

The paper concludes:

Although some advocates argue that admittedly flawed value-added measures are preferred to existing cumbersome measures for identifying, remediating, or dismissing ineffective teachers, this argument creates a false dichotomy. It implies there are only two options for evaluating teachers—the ineffectual current system or the deeply flawed test-based system. Yet there are many alternatives that should be the subject of experiments. The Department of Education should actively encourage states to experiment with a range of approaches that differ in the ways in which they evaluate teacher practice and examine teachers’ contributions to student learning. These experiments should all be fully evaluated.

There is no perfect way to evaluate teachers. However, progress has been made over the last two decades in developing standards-based evaluations of teaching practice, and research has found that the use of such evaluations by some districts has not only provided more useful evidence about teaching practice, but has also been associated with student achievement gains and has helped teachers improve their practice and effectiveness.

Structured performance assessments of teachers like those offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the beginning teacher assessment systems in Connecticut and California have also been found to predict teacher’s effectiveness on value-added measures and to support teacher learning. These systems for observing teachers’ classroom practice are based on professional teaching standards grounded in research on teaching and learning. They use systematic observation protocols with well-developed, research-based criteria to examine teaching, including observations or videotapes of classroom practice, teacher interviews, and artifacts such as lesson plans, assignments, and samples of student work. Quite often, these approaches incorporate several ways of looking at student learning over time in relation to the teacher’s instruction.

Evaluation by competent supervisors and peers, employing such approaches, should form the foundation of teacher evaluation systems, with a supplemental role played by multiple measures of student learning gains that, where appropriate, should include test scores. Given the importance of teachers’ collective efforts to improve overall student achievement in a school, an additional component of documenting practice and outcomes should focus on the effectiveness of teacher participation in teams and the contributions they make to school-wide improvement, through work in curriculum development, sharing practices and materials, peer coaching and reciprocal observation, and collegial work with students.

111 comments Add your comment

Jordan Kohanim

August 29th, 2010
9:30 am

Thank you for this article, Maureen. I think your conclusions are accurate. To correctly evaluate teachers, schools would have to devote much more time and money than they have. For that reason, test scores will likely become the evaluative method. Obviously that is not only a false tool, it also hurts student learning in the long run.

The question is–what method can systems use? Replacing one broken system for another broken system won’t work. Yet, ignoring the problem isn’t feasible either. I just wish I could come up with a solution.

say what?

August 29th, 2010
9:47 am

Too bad GA doesn’t let research get in its way of doing something.

ScienceTeacher671

August 29th, 2010
9:58 am

Thanks for posting, Maureeen! I think ClassKeys and the assessments derived from it (our RESA has come up with a “condensed version”) strive to be the sort of assessment the article calls for, but like you, I don’t think schools really have “the time, resources, or staffing” necessary to conduct these evaluations properly.

Our administrators barely have the time to get in the required 20 minute GTOI observations of each teacher. I don’t know how they are going to find time to implement the ClassKeys-type observations properly, and that concerns me — I’m afraid they are going to try to fit the expanded observation instrument into the same 20 minute time frame, resulting in even more skewed results.

Laurie

August 29th, 2010
10:11 am

Maureen said: “My first response to this paper is wonder if there is any school system with the time, resources or staffing to conduct the thoughtful and deeper evaluations that these researchers recommend. The comprehensive evaluation model they suggests … calls for resources and time that I don’t think too many companies have any longer.”

“A crude measure of the right thing beats a precise measure of the wrong thing.” -John Carver

Ann B.

August 29th, 2010
10:16 am

There is a way to effectively evaluate teachers. If leaders in buildings would stop micromanaging staffs, which takes endless time on a daily basis, and really observe what is going on in classrooms, there’s no doubt in my mind ineffective teachers could be weeded out. The trend now is to pop in classrooms for 40 seconds and then provide feedback. What feedback? Leaders in buildings today are appointed based on political moves within the school systems they serve. It’s not what you know; it’s who you know. 95% of the leaders I have worked under the last 20+ years in the classroom, should never have been appointed as leaders. Competent supervisors do not exist in education.

The Dean

August 29th, 2010
10:21 am

Bad test scores + Unchecked Principals with too much power= Cheating

Happy Teacher

August 29th, 2010
10:23 am

I just hope that because evaluating teachers is difficult, we don’t give up on it. It is vitally important that we take teacher quality more seriously. Imagine how much more successful the 85% of the profession that does a good-to-great job could be if they weren’t trying to make up for the 15% that does a poor job.

Teacher/Learner

August 29th, 2010
10:26 am

You’re right on about the time required to assess deep thinking…but it must be done so that teachers can assess whether or not their teaching is working and adjust their instruction. Does that mean LENGTHY constructed response every week – NO! Teachers can assign themselves 4-5 kids/day to conference with and follow across the day. Perhaps beginning, at mid-point, and at the end of a unit (ex: 3rd graders developing the ability to compare and contrast the reasons characters seem to change in stories), children are given assessments that are evaluated by a group of teachers as well as the kids’ teacher. The rest of the time, careful observation notes can guide “next steps”. So what about standardized tests – throw them out? NO! BE HONEST ABOUT WHAT THE INSTRUMENT CAN TELL A STAKEHOLDER ABOUT A CHILD’S ABILITY TO DO “WHATEVER” INDEPENDENTLY WITH AUTHENTIC TEXTS, OR IN THE CASE OF MATHEMATICS, SOLVE REAL WORLD PROBLEMS, SEEING THE POSSIBLE PATHS FOR MATHEMATICAL SOLUTIONS, AND THE ABILITY TO JUSTIFY AND COMMUNICATE REASONING. At present, no one educates the public.

Thanks so much for this article, Maureen – I’m going to read it now…

NWGA teacher

August 29th, 2010
10:37 am

@ Laurie: YES.

Dr. John Trotter

August 29th, 2010
10:49 am

A loose net will catch any incompetent teacher, but a tight net will suffocate the whole teaching profession — like what is going on now and has been happening in Georgia since the mid 1980s when QBE was first implemented. I agree with “The Dean’s” observation above. Now back to Joel Osteen. Overslept for church today! The Philistines and Pharisees are now running our public schools! We need a John the Baptist “to warn them to flee from the wrath to come.” Hey “Dean,” should I stretch the metaphors to boldly state that many of today’s administrators are “broods of vipers”? LOL.

Chuckles

August 29th, 2010
10:59 am

@ Laurie Yes. John Carver quote was right on point! Lets build around that thought. In the BIG picture too much government is a bad thing. Because they will asks the wrong questions. Keep K12 simple Reading Writing n 2+2. Reading should be #1. Graduate a good reader and he/she will make it.

catlady

August 29th, 2010
11:01 am

Dr. T: How about the “den of thieves?”

schlmarm

August 29th, 2010
11:12 am

Every politician in Georgia starting with the governor and his “cabinet” should get a copy of this article.

ScienceTeacher671

August 29th, 2010
11:14 am

From the article: “Schools that have adopted pull-out, team teaching, or block scheduling practices will only inaccurately be able to isolate individual teacher “effects” for evaluation, pay, or disciplinary purposes.”

Looks as if Georgia needs to re-evaluate its recommended instructional practices if it wants to implement merit pay accurately.

Of course, that’s taking the optimistic view that they actually want to do so, and aren’t trying to find a way to cut pay. There’s also the point that teachers undergoing evaluations such as that required for NBCT improve/are better teachers, but our General Assembly doesn’t want to fund a proven mechanism, preferring to spend our already limited funds to develop a new and unproven mechanism.

And there’s the research correlating student achievement with teacher SAT scores, but if we raised the requirements for admission to teacher certification programs, how would we fill the classrooms?

Dr. John Trotter

August 29th, 2010
11:15 am

Brother Joel finished a little early today. Good message. Now back to this whole snoopervision thing which has been strangling public education for the last 25 years. It began to rear its head in the late 1970s here in Georgia with the now-infamous Teacher Performance Assessment Instrument (TPAI) which the courts in Georgia kicked out because of its inequitable results, abuse, etc. At the time, the new teachers were sentenced to suffer through this TPAI hell. I remember one gentleman who is now teaching (perhaps close to retirement now) in Glynn County who kept failing the “observation” of TPAI at a school in Morrow, Georgia. He had a wonderful principal, but a horrible, myopic assistant principal lady who apparently had it in for Jim. She was either totally incompetent herself or simply was going to refuse to allow Jim to pass his “evaluation.” She kept getting him on “enthusiasm.” Jim told me that he was so “enthusiastic” that he was almost jumping over chairs! This “evaluator” succeeded in ruining this man’s career. He ended up working at a restaurant in St. Simons Island. True story.

When the courts finally kicked out this hellish TPAI, Jim was allowed to teach again, which he did at Glynn Middle School (and I think that he is still there to this day and getting along swimmingly). I knew Jim and his mother who had retired from the Clayton County School System back in the 1970s. Good folks. Jim is a good educator, but he is only one example of many teachers whose lives were destroyed by petty, myopic, and mean-spirited (and often totally incompetent) administrators. (c) MACE, August 29, 2010.

Dr. John Trotter

August 29th, 2010
11:16 am

Catlady: I love “den of thieves”! So appropriate!

Teach2Learn

August 29th, 2010
11:20 am

@ Happy Teacher – I can’t know if your 85/15% split is accurate but your comment about great teachers making up for the failures of the few is right on target.

Nona

August 29th, 2010
11:24 am

Common sense, and a good look at the content of these tests themselves, tell us that test scores in general are a lazy, lame, cop-out way to evaluate teachers. Nice to have some excellent research to validate common sense.

d

August 29th, 2010
11:36 am

I think this would be good information for certain interim deputy superintendents of teaching and learning who wants to place any teacher with less than 70% of students scoring 70% on benchmark exams on PDPs but not giving them appropriate time to in his own words “scaffold” the concepts before the benchmark exam must be administered.

Teacher/Learner

August 29th, 2010
11:37 am

@Nona, we don’t get to see the tests, only the scores. It’s all kept secret. Can you imagine the hullaboo that would be raised if Mark Richt did not get to watch the game, was only given the scores at the end of each quarter, and the final score, then was told to make his coaching better…

Echo

August 29th, 2010
11:43 am

“Evaluation by competent supervisors and peers…” key word here is competent. I have met a handful of “competent” administrators. Currently I have 2 extremely incompetent administrators directly over me. Petty, vindictive and unethical would be pretty accurate descriptions of these 2. When are some new policies going to be implemented to rein in these types of administrators?

rbn

August 29th, 2010
11:44 am

Another example of the challenge ahead to reform education. Sadly, Georgia has wasted so much time and money chasing cheap false fixes while cutting to the marrow the basics, we may never get to the point where real, long term reform trumps fads, phonies, and idealogically driven shams.

linda

August 29th, 2010
12:03 pm

What do they expect school districts to do? With the working conditions (primary) and lack of opportunity for worthwhile pay increases (close second) for talented instructors it is amazing that schools have attracted the good teachers they have. In the ways they are trying to improve education, do the educrats not realize that they are making the situation worse?

Ole Guy

August 29th, 2010
12:05 pm

I wholeheartedly disagree with the very concept of the incompetent teacher as being a cause of academic weaknesses in students. Are there teachers who, in and of themselves, may be incompetent? Absolutely! They passed state muster by indicating some sort of desire to teach. They gained their degrees, certifications, etc…but, somehow, failed at the crucial point of student contact…the real world.

So what do we do? Eject them outright; hold THEM accountable for the miserable academic performances of students?

What ever happened to 1) employee development, and 2) STUDENT ACCOUNTABILITY? Assuming a teacher comes to the dance with minimal qualifications, does that teacher’s supervision have a responsibility to develop that teacher? Therefore, it must be the supervisors’ fault, and, by default, the principals’ fault for student failures.

Let’s stop making teachers walk the plank, and place responsibility where it belongs. Let’s hold the kids’ feet to the fires of accountability, as well.

The current ed system is so disfunctional at this point that it won’t be too long before the requirements for honor grads will be the ability to spell CAT and DOG correctly.

Hey Teacher

August 29th, 2010
12:06 pm

Echo — I hear you. Most administrators I’ve worked for only taught for a few years and have nothing constructive to say to me. In my last evaluation, I was told to laminate the standards. I have multiple degrees, including AP and Gifted certifications and all he/she could find to say about my classroom was to laminate something? Really? We need to stop fast-tracking folks into admin just because they know how to wear a suit.

Hey Teacher

August 29th, 2010
12:15 pm

Dr. T — argh — I remember the TPAI!!! I passed it (took me two tries) but can’t for the life of me figure out what it did for my teaching. I flunked the first portfolio (they pretty much just flunked everyone the first time through) but passed the oral part and had to do the whole thing over again. What a nightmare for a young, enthusiastic teacher just out of school. I almost quit because of it.

Concerned 1

August 29th, 2010
12:20 pm

They will do what they want to do and as teachers we will have to deal with their nonsense , comme d’habitude…we will still do our very best to educate your children until such time that we are all eliminated and replaced by “Stepford Teachers.”

J.B. STONER

August 29th, 2010
12:32 pm

Hope yall saw what orginization gathered in Washington yesterday.
Great turnout for a country on the rebound.

We will NOT be forced to give up our christianity by liberal government.

THANK YOU GLENN BECK FOR POSSESING THE STONES TO LEAD THIS CAUSE.

More will follow.’Good time Charlie’ going away .

Echo

August 29th, 2010
12:37 pm

@ Hey Teacher…the guy in charge yells, yes YELLS, at teachers in front of students. He did it Friday during an emergency drill. At every faculty meeting we have had, including pre-planning, he mentions that “if you aren’t happy here you can leave, there are hundreds of unemployed teachers who would love to have your job.” I am a member of MACE and they are aware of the situation.

d

August 29th, 2010
12:45 pm

@Hey Teacher – well it’s even better now since we “won” the RTTT grant, we can now hire principals right off the street as long as they have a bachelor’s degree and management experience.

Middle School Science Teacher

August 29th, 2010
12:46 pm

I’d be glad to have test scores influence my pay IF and ONLY IF the test scores were taken from a pre-test and post-test of the curriculum that I teach……………..

Concerned 1

August 29th, 2010
12:53 pm

@Echo…don’t worry; hundreds if not thousands of us are retiring this year before they can change Teacher’s Retirement to our detriment. That should free up some positions so he won’t be able to yell out that nonsense anymore. Hang in there.

Real Reformer

August 29th, 2010
12:53 pm

As a former teacher and the daughter of a former school superintendent and school board chair, I see both sides. I am an active volunteer at my son’s school and I see teachers going above and beyond the call of duty. I also see teachers who seem to be totally checked out and just getting by. There are also two extremes on the parent side. First, I see parents who are more concerned about why their child’s cell phone was taken away (reason: it’s against the rules and that is clearly stated!) than about whether the homework gets done. They annoy teachers constantly about things that should be THEIR responsibility because they don’t want to let their kids learn to be accountable for their own mistakes and apathy. They are so focused on their child getting the best grades, or not being penalized in any way for any reason, they will take petty complaints to the principal and beyond. They won’t let their kids learn that valuable lesson — life isn’t always fair, not every teacher will be your favorite. Learn to deal with it (of course, I exclude instances of physical and verbal abuse and other unprofessional behavior, which I have also seen)!!

On the other end of the spectrum, parents call and ask for directions to the school when their kid is graduating — they’ve never been there before for any reasons. Over half the parents won’t join the PTA. They don’t open their kids’ grade reports when they come in the mail. They expect the school to be disciplinarian, meal provider, and baby sitter.

Neither of these extremes is good. We need to think of teachers as professionals, pay them like professionals, and hold them accountable as professionals. BUT — parents need to be accountable, too. When parents are aware and informed of their child’s progress and problems, when they’ll courteously ask a teacher for assistance without accusing them, when they monitor their own children’s progress and don’t make excuses for their misbehavior or lack of interest in school, when they deliver the kids to school with a good night’s sleep and the supplies/resources they are supposed to have…

….when all that happens, I will be the first to support abolition of tenure, merit pay and bonuses for good teachers, and swift firing for those who don’t do their job.

It’s got to be mutual. I am tired of parents who will pay thousands for pro sports tickets, and won’t contribute a dime or a minute of time to schools. We get what we pay for. Teaching is a job; so is BEING A PARENT.

8th grade teacher

August 29th, 2010
1:00 pm

Ole Guy – your comment about student accountability was dead-on. Too many kids know these tests don’t count for anything and then choose to give less than their best effort. My (8th grade) students told me that they were “tired” by the time science and social studies came around and just “did a lot of guessing.”

The science test itself seemed to be more of a reading comprehension test than a science test – the kids told me the questions were too long and they didn’t understand what the question was asking. That’s a problem, IMHO.

There are many parents who regularly complain about the validity of the CRCT in evaluating their child, yet some of these same people think that it’s a valid measure of teacher accountability – how can that be?

I’m not against accountability – I do a good job, and I get results. But from personal experience, I know how arbitrary these tests can be. I went from a 70%FRL school to a 50%FRL, and my scores jumped 10 points! Then I started teaching gifted, and my scores jumped another 15. I refuse to take credit for that. Comparison to their 7th grade scores is meaningless as 7th grade is an entirely different science. Pre and post-tests would be necessary, but that takes time and money to develop and ensure validity – not to mention the reduction of teaching time. If kids are being passed along with below level reading and math abilities, how do we ensure that the test is measuring their science knowledge and not their reading ability? Last thoughts – absenteeism and transiency – two things teachers are not in control of, yet are strong factors in determining how well a student does in school – how do we account for that??

MB

August 29th, 2010
1:04 pm

@d Some would likely be better if they had a BS in something meaningful and TRUE management experience. As mentioned above, they may only have 3 years of teaching experience, and some have it only team-teaching. I’ve seen a SAD lack of personnel administration acumen in school administration; certain that they had a different personnel class in ed leadership than I had in health care administration!

Agree with many posts above regarding a glaring problem with the proposed model of evaluation – the supposition that competent supervisors would be conducting the reviews.

Unfortunately, it seems that educational leadership is too often an oxymoron. Let’s hear a call for fewer administrators (of a system that’s not working) but for more leaders in education.

Hmmmm

August 29th, 2010
1:06 pm

@ Echo…..Wow….your principal and mine must be cut from the same cloth! These exact same words have been coming out of her mouth for the past year and a half! This same principal also embarrassed a teacher in front of the entire staff and faculty the first day of preplanning. What a way to motivate and inspire teachers during this time we are being asked to give more and more! Where are the good administrators and how do we get them in our schools? Teachers are being bled to death and the final casualties will be the students.

d

August 29th, 2010
1:06 pm

As much as I vouch for a pretest-posttest model, I’m just concerned about the pretests that I’ve been seeing this year as my benchmarks. They are using terms and concepts that students would have never been exposed to before in their curriculum so any questions that are answered correctly are likely due to a lucky guess. I haven’t been able to see my pretest data from our first benchmark so how the heck to do I utilize it to make sure I am making my instruction effective for my students?

Hmmmm

August 29th, 2010
1:08 pm

I forgot to add that until we get fair minded administrators, I really don’t want to be arbitrarily judged by someone who may have a vendetta against me!

Hmmmm

August 29th, 2010
1:10 pm

And what is this about changing Teacher’s Retirement? I have at least 12 more years before I can retire. Can anyone explain?

ScienceTeacher671

August 29th, 2010
1:11 pm

@Echo, I think I used to work for that guy….

OTOH, I have worked for at least two principals who would fit that description…

Echo

August 29th, 2010
1:12 pm

I wonder what would happen if there was a massive amount of grievances filed by teachers against these administrators? They are required to be heard by law. That would be very time consuming and costly…

Awful, Awful, Awful

August 29th, 2010
1:13 pm

So, whatever happened to just “Teaching”? I’ll tell you what happened……our stupid government and supreme court got in the way.

MB

August 29th, 2010
1:13 pm

However, it seems you probably shouldn’t try to be a leader in Fulton right now…where’s the story about the twenty-second principal change in Fulton for this school year, Maureen? How many does it take to see the flare? Is it not a clue that a termination was converted to a resignation, with full benefits for the rest of the year?

A principal is released because his secretary has too much authority, he refers to age and gender of an employee, and he makes no secret that he would have preferred to select his own leadership team. (Other “charges” seem to be in a similar vein.) This principal was BELOVED at his former school, but was terminated even though the school board voted unanimously to NOT terminate him. Huh?

http://www.northfulton.com/Articles-c-2010-08-23-184033.114126-sub_Insubordination_neglect_cited_as_reasons_for_termination_of_Birmingham_Falls_ES_principal.html

catlady

August 29th, 2010
1:34 pm

I am responsible for teaching (many different ways, using different modalities and “research-based best practices”; my students are responsible for learning. There is a difference!

Number 2: we need to quit treating all kids like they are sped. In our system, that is what we have done. (Most of us think it is because the 2nd in command has family members who are the laziest, most pampered, unmotivated kids on earth, and she is trying to set rules so that she doesn’t have to do so much homework for them!)

Number 3: We need principals and APs and CO “managers” with SIGNIFICANT teaching experience, preferably in more than one subject or grade level! I would say a minimum of 15 years of daily, full-blown, classroom experience. And they need to be rotated back into the classroom every five years, for at least 2 years of “refresher course.”

And, finally, we have to be more willing to involve DFACS and the courts. After all, when we don’t, we wind up paying for these kids’ lack of effort for the rest of their (or our) lives! When we see parents called on their negligence in their children’s education, we will see a quick improvement in parental effort!

Now, for something completely different: I call out a BRAVO to Ms. Downey for printing something with some real meat in it. Agree with its conclusions or not, it is more than the fluff we generally see.

benny

August 29th, 2010
1:36 pm

I believe everyone has missed the entire concept. This is not about educating students or bad teachers. This is about politics. How else is a politician supposed to get “face time” unless they try to inflame passions. I just retired from teaching and the current political economy made up my mind. Students are now part of a business model. They are widgets and that is all. I have no respect for anyone trying to fix education uless they have spent MANY years in the classroom actively teaching the hormonally challenged, fighting the stupid paperwork battle, trying to get things done for politically motivated administrators, and dealing with parents that think their little sweetie is perfect (cough, cough). Finally, just because a parent thinks a teacher is “bad” does not make them bad. Just because a teacher does not teach non stop for the entire class period does not make them bad. In fact, I am not really sure what is the definition of a “bad” teacher. If you do not try new things in the classroom then you become stagnant. There are things that sometimes do not work. Does that make a bad teacher? Students cannot sit for many hours every day taking notes and stay attentive to the curriculum. They do need some periodic work that changes up their day. What is great about our education system is that it has many built in safety nets. Very few students are ready for advanced, rigorous classes all day long. Some drop out and some fail. There are altenatives and they are GED for dropouts, community colleges for those not as prepared, technical schools that prepare for the workforce. There are more and yet everything is bad about our educational system. Very sad that this is what we have come to and I still see very few parents volunteering to work in schools, politicians talking to teachers and students, etc. Very sad indeed.

William Casey

August 29th, 2010
1:43 pm

JORDAN KOHANIM, in the very first comment, hit the nail on the head— “To correctly evaluate teachers, schools would have to devote much more time and money than they have.”

Teacher evaluation is a vexing problem because teaching is a complex task. I was an administrator at Chattahoochee High School in the mid-1990’s. I didn’t do teacher evaluations but observed very closely the administraors who did. They tried to do a good job but the demands of the AP job made it almost impossible. I would describe these evaluations as “perfunctorary,” at best. Evaluations were ALWAYS way down the priority list of “things to do.” Had to be. Try running a school and see.

I was “evaluated” many times over my 27 years in the classroom. These observations were 15-minute snapshots usually done by people untrained in my subject… history.

The current movement toward “teacher evaluation by student test scores” will yield only “second-hand” imformation. There are far too many intervening variables between teacher effort/competence and student performance, the students’ home situations being the most important one. Still, test scores could be useful IF they are used in the context of a sound overall evaluation program.

What to do? First, take the teacher observation task away from assistant principals. They have far too much to do, God bless them. Second, create observation teams of “outside,” experienced educators who ARE NOT associated with the individual school. These observers would change schools each year to maintain objectivity. OK, where do we get these people? We would tap a heretofore untapped source of talented and experienced people: RETIRED TEACHERS (I am one.) I could provide excellent evaluations for at least ten history teachers based on 8-10 observations AND in-depth study of their teaching/testing materials. I also wouldn’t charge exorbitant “consulting fees.” I have many ideas for recruiting and training these outside observers but those ideas will have to wait.

This would be a SERIOUS (and fair) system, blending professional observations by an impartial expert with student test scores.

William Casey

August 29th, 2010
1:46 pm

BENNY just raised a lot of good points.

thankateacher

August 29th, 2010
1:46 pm

Ask Douglas County teachers what they are trying to pull with teacher evaluations this year. It appears that they want to evaluate teachers based on COACH reading and math scores. They are not even asking for growth, Students have to make 75% or higher on the COACH Reading and Math tests and those will be tied to teacher evaluations. If you have a stacked class with EIP students, you don’t stand a chance.

thankateacher

August 29th, 2010
1:47 pm

William Casey

August 29th, 2010
1:47 pm

CATLADY is still my hero.