To the Editor:
Thomas Toch’s plan to strengthen evaluation of teachers is an improvement over the methods currently in use in most schools, but it overlooks one crucial element (“Test Results and Drive-By Evaluations,” Commentary, March 5, 2008). It is vital that those doing the actual class observations be certified in the same field as the teacher being scrutinized.
Even under Mr. Toch’s proposal, it would be altogether possible to have repeated visits by multiple evaluators who knew little or nothing about the subject taught. In foreign languages, for example, would these same observers know the difference between, say, ser and estar, the very different “to be” verbs in Spanish?
The point is that for too long in K-12 we’ve assumed that expertise in subject matter is secondary to pedagogy. That would never occur in higher education, where peer review is the accepted method of assessment. If we expect to improve educational outcomes, we need to reconsider our current strategies.
Los Angeles, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the March 19, 2008 edition of Education Week as Those Evaluating Teachers Should Teach in Their Field