To the Editor:
Education Week’s inside look at a sampling of some states’ teacher-evaluation ratings (“Principals Are Loath to Give Their Teachers Bad Ratings,” July 13, 2017) raises questions about the data and some observations about districts’ capacity to properly evaluate teaching.
Only 24 states are included in the sample. Nor is there differentiation between tenured and nontenured teachers. This is incomplete in creating a national picture. In my work as a school district human-resource administrator and examiner, I have read thousands of teacher-evaluation documents. Most “developing or needs improvement” final evaluation ratings are given to nontenured teachers, who may be released without fanfare or cost. When tenured teachers receive a “needs improvement” rating, it is often followed by grievances or accusations against the evaluator of some prohibited practice. There are few terminations.
Many districts without full-time human-resource administrators assign sensitive oversight of evaluations to untrained administrators. This leaves many evaluators in schools without central-office coaching and support when evaluation complexities develop. Evaluation forms and timing are often tremendously burdensome on evaluators, who must rush through classroom visits and forms just to meet protocols and deadlines. Most evaluators do not hold teaching credentials aligned with the credentials of those being evaluated, creating validity and reliability issues, which are rarely studied.
This leads us to the essential question about evaluating teachers: In what way do evaluation systems help the district meet its goals and develop its staff? A good example of a long-term successful evaluation process is the peer-assisted review in Toledo, Ohio. That process engages tenured teachers in evaluating peers and mentoring them for success or for separation. This is a model worth replicating for our profession.
Thomas P. Johnson
Harwich Port, Mass.
A version of this article appeared in the August 30, 2017 edition of Education Week as District HR Teams Need More Support