I read this morning that even the people who make the standardized tests are concerned about their use in evaluating teachers (See Florida Policy Matters). Don't get me wrong, I DO believe that teachers should be accountable for what kids learn in their classes. But how to measure this is what seems to be the problem. If you have ever worked in a school, you know who the good teachers and bad teachers are. Everyone in a school is acutely aware of the guy who is just a couple of years shy of retirement, and is just marking time until he can play golf every day. There is not anyone who is ignorant of the teacher who yells at her students daily, because she has no real sense of how to manage a class. Kids know as soon as they get their schedules or class assignments what will be expected of them throughout the year. They know who might be tough, but fair, who will let them slide, and who will be erratic in expectations. Just ask them and they will tell you who the good, the bad, and the ugly truly are. So, quantifying this in a way that ensures fair compensation based on performance is the key. By the way, standardized tests don't do that. They do many things that can be helpful in designing differentiated instruction, and understanding very narrowly how well a student has mastered certain skills or content; but they don't tell us who the good and bad teachers are. What we need is transparency. We need a way to see teachers through the eyes of the people who are around them every day. We need a way to really understand how well each teacher can reach the students, as whole human beings, and help them become better thinkers and doers. I don't think this is impossible and know of many schools that are working toward such systems. The first step is to ask the right questions. Who are the very best teachers? Who are the people I want influencing my own children academically and developmentally? These should be the guiding questions when developing fair evaluation systems of teachers.
Janine Walker Caffrey writes about reading, education and a few other topics related to happiness and life in general.