Teaching Profession

Middle Ground on Evaluations

By Stephen Sawchuk — October 07, 2008 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Eduwonkette has an interesting post up about the dismissal of a popular Wilson High School teacher. She suggests that this situation shows the weakness in D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s strategy to permit principals more say over the hiring, firing, and remediation of teachers.

If principals can’t be trusted to make evaluative decisions about teachers, or if those decisions are too subjective, then what should these evaluations be based on?

Teachers have some real concerns with supposedly objective measures of their performance, too. For good reason: Researchers are still trying to figure out the best methodologies for using standardized test scores to estimate the “value added” of teachers on their students’ achievement. (See my colleague Debra Viadero’s write up of this issue here.)

Perhaps the answer is to institute a mix of subjective and objective measures in teacher evaluations, or to use multiple kinds of evaluations before arriving at a determination about whether a teacher needs remediation and/or should be put on a track to dismissal. Of course, those raise additional questions about how to arrive at the right “mix” of measures and who besides principals ought to be conducting the evaluations.

There’s an important subtext to Eduwonkette’s post that also deserves some attention. Just how accurate do evaluations need to be? If even one teacher is misidentified, is that too many? What’s the appropriate level of safeguards around teacher evaluations, and what should those safeguards look like?

(This underlying issue of accuracy is a big one in today’s Age of Accountability. Most of the wrangling over No Child Left Behind fundamentally has to do with whether the AYP measure is accurately identifying schools needing assistance and whether tweaks to N-sizes, confidence intervals, growth models, etc. improve or enervate accuracy.)

It’s been quiet out there of late in the comments section. Let’s hear some feedback from our readers on this issue.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.