Lately we’ve seen a lot of talk about the way teachers are being evaluated and if what’s currently in place is efficient. Also, this topic has come about as some teachers who are no longer efficient aren’t able to be fired or reassigned because of tenure systems. The most recent example of this is something I saw this morning in Education Week. It talks about the newly revamped system in Tennessee that is causing quite an uproar.
The new evaluation program, developed in connection with the federal Race to the Top grant competition, grades teachers on both student test scores and multiple classroom observations. As of now, the observations seem to be the primary sticking point, with both teachers and principals complaining that they are cumbersome and unfair. The article notes that, among other things, the evaluators are required to use a three-page checklist to review teachers’ lessons plans.
Teachers are even leaving the classroom and have decided not to teach because of it.
Another recent example was one of the reasons for the teacher strikes in Chicago. The mayor of Chicago wanted them to be evaluated on their students’ performance in standardized tests. The strikes are over and the teachers have agreed to sign a new 3 year contract. Part of that contract requires the evaluation system to be revamped. You can see more of that agreement here http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/10/04/554460uschicagoteacherscontract_ap.html.
It’s true that teacher evaluation systems definitely need to be changed but I don’t necessarily agree with basing them on student test scores. What if you have a majority of English Language Learners or special needs kids, then what? Do you take the kids who aren’t the best in the class off the roster like some teachers in Tennessee want to do? And, some kids just don’t test well, which has no indication of their performance.
It’s sure that test preparation helps – even if it helps the students to be less nervous or stressed. Taking that aspect of testing away, their scores generally can increase just because they are able to focus better. The more test preparation we can do – without teaching directly to the test the better I think.
There are some great online test prep programs out there and actually Lumos Learning has one that can be modified by the teacher to really focus on what’s being taught in the classroom. They are all based on the new Common Core Standards and developed by “master” teachers in their fields.