Teacher Quality: Investing in What Matters
Spurred by awards of federal funding under the Race to the Top competition, many states are adopting teacher-evaluation systems with student achievement as the ultimate goal. This drive to create robust evaluation systems places far too much emphasis on inspecting and testing. A system of quality control founded on the belief that inspection and multiple-choice tests are valid measures of effectiveness is flawed. The investment in external measures hides our most valuable assets—the cognitive resources of teachers. Too often, standards are the basis for inspection, with minimal dialogue and little attention to teachers' intellect, wisdom, intuition, and creativity.
Quality matters. How we assess it is important. However, the idea that the complex processes of teaching can be easily inspected or measured by answers on a bubble test is erroneous. As educators, we are puzzled that more people are not voicing concerns about this trend toward an oversimplified system of quality control. A few in the field have become outspoken and urge a more thoughtful approach. Policymakers ought to heed the collective wisdom of these thought leaders.
Notably, Diane Ravitch changed her direction and advice, which was pro-standards, when the emphasis moved toward an obsession with test scores. Charlotte Danielson, a leading expert on research-based frameworks for instruction, cautions against simplistic "drive by" observation models. She advises that even after training, "most observers require multiple opportunities to practice using [her] framework effectively and to calibrate their judgments with others." Despite her cautions, far too many policymakers advocate for an inspector's toolbox full of rubrics and a singular focus...
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