I would like to follow up on the story with which I started my initial post. In response to the low reading test scores, the third grade teachers who had otherwise been deemed effective were not evaluated as unsatisfactory or negligent. They were not blamed or fired. The school took on a collective responsibility. We asked ourselves, “How can every member of the leadership team do better? How can each teacher do better?”
After reading the posts, it seems that the ideas and tools for effective evaluation are out there. Educators are advocating for peer review and the use of multiple measures of student achievement, NOT just standardized test scores. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has outlined standards for teacher performance in multiple areas. And teachers are suggesting videotaping themselves and their colleagues in order to critique and improve their practice.
I believe the disconnect between what is available and what is actually happening is in our mindset around teacher evaluation. Currently, our motivation behind teacher evaluation (and particularly linking it to test scores) seems punitive. Because accountability is such a huge component of the government’s role in education, evaluation is used to place blame. Teacher evaluation, however we choose to do it, should be done in the spirit of improving teachers’ practice and their students’ education.
Jessica Hahn has taught elementary grade children for six years in Phoenix and New York City.
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