Evaluating Teachers: Lessons From the EWA Seminar
One of the reoccurring themes we heard from teachers (and their advocates) at the seminar was that they welcomed evaluations, if the intent was to actually help them improve at their work. What policymakers should be worried about is whether the evaluation models "improve instruction ... not just `did we rate them well,'" said Rob Weil, director of field programs in the educational issues department of the American Federation of Teachers.
The idea that you can identify teachers who are falling short "and nature will take its course" and people will improve on their own "doesn't happen," Weil said. "You have to help." When teachers are presented with an evaluation system that actually works toward that larger goal, "teachers embrace it," Weil said. He also added that people do seem to be talking about how to use evaluations to improve classroom instruction, rather than simply teachers into groups by performance labels. As a result, "I'm more optimistic than I've been in a few years," Weil said.
Also at the seminar, Tim Knowles, the John Dewey director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute made some provocative points in his remarks. He noted that federal standards deem teachers to be "highly qualified" once they pass a national certification exam. That's far different from examining an individual's actual effectiveness in the classroom. While evaluations and accountability are important, it's only part of the larger picture, Knowles said.
In the discussion of teacher evaluations, Knowles warned against building systems that don't actually help individuals move to the next level, or define teacher quality only in relation to student results. The reality is that teachers are part of a complex organization, and those who work in "healthy" organizations are more likely to perform well and stay in the profession, Knowles said. Schoolhouses need to be interesting places to work for the teachers as well as the students, Knowles said.
I'm going to share more of the seminar with you in future blog postings. In preparation for that, I have a question for you: Do you believe teacher evaluation scores, listing individuals by name, should be made public, as was the case in the Los Angeles Times "Grading the Teachers" project?
Have a question, comment or concern for the Educated Reporter? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm also on Twitter @EWAEmily.
Labels: AFT, EWA, federal_reform, Los Angeles Times, Rob Weil, teacher evaluation, teacher_evaluation, teacher_evaluations, teachers, Tim Knowles, University of Chicago, Urban Education Institute Grading the Teachers