Opinion
Teaching Profession Opinion

The Other Missing Piece in Teacher Evaluation: Look at the Child, Not Just the Teacher

By Sara Mead — September 05, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

One of the things that I find incredibly frustrating about the current discussion on teacher evaluation is that it’s almost entirely focused on adults, rather than kids. Obviously, “putting adult interests ahead of kids” is a complaint you hear a lot in education reform conversations, and there’s clearly an element to that here: In the debate over teacher evaluation systems, there’s a tremendous emphasis on whether these systems are fair to teachers: Are student learning gain measures are accurate and valid reflections of teachers’ impact? Are observers unbiased and sufficiently trained? Are teachers identified as ineffective are given sufficient opportunity to improve? Is the system as a whole is sufficiently valid and reliable to serve as a grounds for dismissal decisions? And these are important questions--after all, we are talking about people’s livelihoods here. But in debating what’s fair to teachers, we shouldn’t ignore what’s fair to kids. Kids’ and teachers’ interests are very often aligned (unfairly dismissing good teachers would also be unfair to kids), but there are also trade-offs. The higher we set the bar for identifying ineffective teachers or taking corrective actions towards them, the more kids will be unfairly subjected to ineffective teaching.

But there’s a second level at which we focus on adults rather than kids here. Nearly all of our conversations around teacher evaluations focus on teachers as the unit of analysis--for example, many states have provisions designed to dismiss teachers who are rated ineffective for two years. What if we flip that and look at kids as the unit of analysis, using teacher evaluation data to track the quality of instruction to which children are exposed over time. We could say, for example, that no child should be assigned to two ineffective teachers in consecutive years. We could say that districts should make every effort to assign students who had a teacher rated “ineffective” or “needs improvement” in the past year to a teacher rated “effective” or “highly effective” this year. We could say that kids who are particularly struggling in math should be assigned to teachers who perform well on student learning measures in math. And so forth. From the current debate, you’d think that value-added data is only good for evaluating teachers, but, as Craig Jerald has written, it can provide a wealth of information that can be used to inform both instruction and smarter student assignment decisions for the individual child--and should be. Such conversations have the potential to dramatically shift the way we currently distribute and prioritize teaching talent to students in schools. Given the body of evidence that teachers impacts on student learning are cumulative--students with three effective teachers in a row will learn substantially more than those with three ineffective teachers--it seems insane not to look at how we use teacher evaluation data from the lens of the child, not just the teacher.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession We Feel Your Grief: Remembering the 1,000 Plus Educators Who've Died of COVID-19
The heartbreaking tally of lives lost to the coronavirus continues to rise and take a steep toll on school communities.
3 min read
090321 1000 Educators Lost BS
Education Week
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor Educators Have a Responsibility to Support the Common Good
A science teacher responds to another science teacher's hesitation to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
1 min read
Teaching Profession With Vaccine Mandates on the Rise, Some Teachers May Face Discipline
With a vaccine now fully FDA-approved, more states and districts will likely require school staff get vaccinated. The logistics are tricky.
9 min read
Grace John, who works at a school in San Lorenzo, gets a COVID-19 shot at a mobile vaccination clinic run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state in Hayward, Calif., on Feb. 19, 2021. California will become the first state in the nation to require all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. The statewide vaccine mandate for K-12 educators comes as schools return from summer break amid growing concerns of the highly contagious delta variant.
Grace John, who works at a school in San Lorenzo, gets a COVID-19 shot at a mobile vaccination clinic in Hayward, Calif. California is among those states requiring all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
Terry Chea/AP
Teaching Profession In Their Own Words Why This Science Teacher Doesn't Want the COVID Vaccine
Contrary to public health guidance, Davis Eidahl, an Iowa high school teacher, has no plans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
4 min read
Davis Eidahl, a science teacher at Pekin High School in Packwood, Iowa, says he doesn't want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. He thinks social distancing and occasional masking will be sufficient to keep himself and others safe.
Davis Eidahl, a science teacher at Pekin High School in Packwood, Iowa, says he doesn't want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. He thinks social distancing and occasional masking will be sufficient to keep himself and others safe.
Rachel Mummey for Education Week