Education Funding Letter to the Editor

Policies, Not Administrators, to Blame for Teacher-Evaluation System

May 31, 2016 1 min read
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To the Editor:

Charlotte Danielson’s Commentary included many good ideas about teacher development (“It’s Time to Rethink Teacher Evaluation”).

But she really missed the mark when she singled out building administrators as not always having the “skill to differentiate great teaching from that which is merely good, or perhaps even mediocre.” Danielson then compounds her mistake by referring to a study that helped shape the U.S. Department of Education’s disastrous Race to the Top initiative, which, in turn, influences today’s teacher-evaluation policy.

The problem is not with school administrators. The problem is with the system—specifically, the policies that create and drive the teacher-evaluation system.

My graduate students and I have conducted surveys, interviews, and focus groups with school administrators in my research into teacher-evaluation systems, and the message is very clear. Because of the limited time, resources, and school-based policies, there are often few resources left to address mediocre teaching, much less ineffective teaching.

Thanks to “Race to the Bottom,” my state of Colorado has made several teacher-evaluation policy changes that have made matters worse, such as a more-than-20-page model evaluation form for administrators to use and the decision to factor student test scores into final teacher ratings.

Our research clearly shows that the uppermost problem school principals have with the teacher-development process is available time. From my perspective as a former school administrator and current education leadership professor, school administrators clearly know how to “differentiate great teaching from that which is merely good, or perhaps even mediocre.” The problem is that the policies that create the system are misguided.

Al Ramirez


College of Education

University of Colorado

Colorado Springs, Colo.

A version of this article appeared in the June 01, 2016 edition of Education Week as Policies, Not Administrators, to Blame for Teacher-Evaluation System


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