Lately I've had to fight the temptation to get jaded about our country's education system. It is wonderful timing for this report by CTQ's Denver New Millenium Initiative, a diverse group of teachers called Making Teacher Evaluation Work For Students: Voices From the Classroom.
The report gives specific recommendations for new teacher evaluation systems. It focuses on these four issues that deserve the most immediate attention:
"1. Developing meaningful measures of student growth (including in nontested areas) to comprise 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, as required by state law.
2. Defining qualifications and training for evaluators.
3. Determining how to account for school conditions and student factors in a teacher’s evaluation.
4. Designing an evaluation system that informs both employment decisions and professional growth and learning."
It is an extremely worthwhile read, that includes both text and actual audio voices presenting concrete ideas and experiences on how sensible teacher evaluation could look. You might appreciate, especially if, like me, you're growing tired of glumly shaking your head after reading the education news and legislation and hearing war stories from your teacher colleagues across the country.
I am really happy to see working conditions within a school and issues facing the students in their lives being taken into consideration in determining a teacher's effectiveness. In terms of teacher evaluators, I am glad that the report recommends a team of qualified peers evaluating teachers, and not one individual in charge of a teacher's evaluation. I am skeptical that such teams could or should arrive at a high level of inter-rater reliability, because I think what we see in a lesson can be colored by who we are as teachers and what we value most as people, which can vary wildly, still providing students with valuable learning experiences. I do think that a team can come to some fair rating, despite inevitable disagreements. But I would not want to see those disagreements disappear, because they are often philosophical, and we need that variety and debate in our definition of the effective teacher.