This is a hot topic in education currently. Students First, The Foundation for Excellence in Education, The Mackinaw Center, and other “education reform” organization feel many teachers are not “working hard enough” or “effective”, blaming tenure for teacher complacency in the classroom. The reform movement seems to focus on tearing down the established public school model and creating an elaborate for profit charter school network.
How do they know the public school teachers are in-effective? The media often reports that the United States is not ranking well on standardized tests compared to the world. This leads to the generalization that teachers are in-effective and lacking passion. It might be the case but how do we know it is the teachers? Schools are a reflection of our society. Could it be to blame?
What research do they have that shows ALL new charter schools will be more effective than their counterparts? None, most reports show that charter schools are similar to public schools in all regards. Some are great, that get plenty of press, others are average and many are failures.
The State of Michigan is making an ambitious attempt to create a fair teacher evaluation system. The Michigan Council for Educators Effectiveness has been set up to design a standard system for all teachers to be evaluated by in Michigan. The council is working hard to create a system that gives flexibility to school districts and focus on the true reason for teacher evaluations: Teacher Growth! I hope the MCEE reaches their goal of creating a quality model.
Many factors go into being an effective teacher. Teachers have to be flexible, skillful trained, and organized. Knowledge of content, student and learning styles. Patience is a must. Teachers must have the ability to tolerate change and be reflective on their practice. Most of all teacher have to always be learning and working to improve their practice. All of these skills help define an effective teacher. How are these skills seen by an observer? Can all of them be seen in 2 observations? What if the evaluator is not trained in the teachers subject area?
Many states are adding student growth data to evaluations. Standardized tests scores are being used to measure growth and connected to teachers evaluations. Many state tests are only in core subjects. Should these test scores be connected to band or art teachers evaluations? Does these create an atmosphere where teachers are “teaching to the test’? Does using these tools for evaluations devalue other important areas of education?
The charter school vendors have lobbied heavily to use teacher evaluations as the primary factor for teacher placement. In theory this sounds practical. There are so many questions surround how teachers are measure, what makes them effective and how student growth is measured. Would this be a fair system? Would teacher evaluations still promote and be used for teacher growth?
I feel that setting up this teacher evaluation system the way many have proposed will ruin our public schools. Unless we can tackle all of the hard questions that come with this issue. Teacher collaboration will dissolve as teachers will be worried about their jobs instead of focusing on student learning. Cheating scandals will erupt (Like Atlanta). American schools will fall apart and not fulfill their mission to provide a free education to ALL students.
After listening to Deborah Ball, Chair of MCEE, last week, I am confident they are working at answering these questions. I like many educators am concerned about how our legislators will react to their recommendation. Why are we letting business experts dictate education policy? Please urge your legislators to listen to teachers about their profession. Teachers need to be allowed to have a voice in how they will be ultimately judged.