Trained Peers, Not Tests, Needed to Evaluate Teachers

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To the Editor:

States are rushing out high-stakes teacher-rating systems with real consequences that do not come close to meeting the criteria outlined by the authors of the Commentary "Take the Time to Evaluate Teacher Evaluation".

We would be naive to believe that this is being done out of a desire to genuinely improve the work of teachers. This is being done to chase Race to the Top funding and to further ideological agendas that see education as a bottom-line endeavor and that do not trust or respect teachers as true professionals.

Measures of student "growth" using standardized tests can provide some formative-assessment data on students, but they will not encourage professional growth or provide valid teacher ratings. Student performance is affected by far too many variables to effectively determine the specific contribution of an individual teacher.

The consequences attached to these evaluation measures end up stifling innovation, collaboration, and honest discussion. The idea that there is a magic algorithm to quantify effective teaching is a fantasy and a destructive waste of time and money that does nothing to support students.

Peer-assistance and -review programs, on the other hand, using carefully vetted and trained mentors, instructional supervisors, and peer reviewers, can move us in the right direction. Such programs respect teaching as a true profession and place the focus back where it belongs: on strengthening classroom practice and teachers' relationships with students.

Stefan Cohen
History Teacher, School of the Arts
Peer Reviewer, Social Studies
Rochester City School District
Rochester, N.Y.

Vol. 33, Issue 29, Page 24

Published in Print: April 23, 2014, as Trained Peers, Not Tests, Needed To Evaluate Teachers
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