How to measure teachers – and schools
The Aug. 13 cover story, "The measure of a teacher," reminds us that too often the dialogue on teacher evaluation focuses on its potential for harm, rather than the benefits that good systems, infused with teacher buy-in, can bring.
High-quality evaluation and support systems ensure that our best teachers receive the recognition and further development they deserve and need, while weaker teachers have the opportunity and resources to improve. Accountability, however, must go both ways. As teachers are accountable to school leaders, our leaders must be accountable to teachers. Administrators must create fair and supportive evaluation systems that empower teachers.
First, systems must include multiple measures of teacher effectiveness, incorporating student achievement, observations, and input from students. Second, evaluations must be administered fairly. Schools must continuously improve how they measure and calculate success; all measures must be reliable and valid. Observations, in particular, require training and careful planning to be administered fairly.
Finally, schools must give teachers access to professional development that is meaningful and aligned with the evaluation system. That means trading in the quick workshops for intensive coaching and programs proven to improve the classroom interactions that matter most.
Research and evaluation director at Teachstone
I am often disappointed when grading our schools begins and ends with the teaching staff. Should teachers be graded? Absolutely. However, why stop with teachers? Shouldn't we also grade administrators? Remembering that the school and classroom are merely an extension of the family and community, shouldn't these also be graded? How about the school committees and the caliber and purpose of those serving on them? Shouldn't the curriculum and texts be graded also?
And what about the impact class size has on the time a teacher is able to give to each student? Are all youngsters equally, innately capable of understanding the materials? Do students arrive in the class ready to learn? Does the ethnic makeup of a community affect students' valuation of education?
W.E. Gatchell Jr.
Retired high school math teacher