Teaching Evaluations = Pleasantville?

By Bryan Toporek — July 30, 2009 1 min read
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The Richardson Independent School District in Texas churned out some unbelievably impressive results on its recent teacher evaluation scores — in fact, they performed so well that reporter Jeffrey Weiss of The Dallas Morning News found himself curious, with a hint of suspicion.

The district used a program dubbed the Professional Development and Appraisal System for its evaluations. The PDAS uses eight “domains” to group teachers into four categories: Exceeds expectations, proficient, below expectations, and unsatisfactory.

Things got a bit fishy for Weiss when he began breaking down the data on a school-by-school basis. Within his data, which encapsulated results from 52 schools and 2,346 teachers, only two teachers were considered “unsatisfactory” in any of the eight domains. At most, 41 teachers in the entire district ranked below “proficient” in any domain — and even fewer ranked below “proficient” in domains more closely related to instruction. Twenty-three schools had no teachers ranked below “proficient” in any category.

“These are pretty good results, to be sure,” Weiss reflected, “But are they realistic results? RISD has a good reputation, which doesn’t happen unless the teachers are pretty good.”

His post carried on with a final question: “Based on your experience, are the teachers of RISD this good? And for you teachers: Do you think this evaluation system is fair and accurate?

(Hat tip: ASCD SmartBrief)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.