Friday, January 31, 2014

Teacher Evaluations

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy recently announced that the state would postpone for two years the implementation of a teacher evaluation program that would have connected teacher evaluations to student achievement. 

The reason for the delay is that many Connecticut school districts are struggling to get up to speed in what has come to be known as the common core curriculum.  It seems unreasonable to enact an evaluation program when the curriculum is still in development.

For as long as I can remember teacher evaluation has been a very controversial issue.  On one hand there are those who don't see any reason why a teacher should not be evaluated on the basis of student achievement.  After all, isn't that how it works in the private sector?  You're not doing your job?  You're out!

On the other hand there are those who insist a teacher's performance review should not be tied to the achievement of his/her students because there are too many variables over which a teacher has no control.  Things like poverty, uncooperative parents, learning disabilities and even a school administration who has it in for a given teacher makes that teacher destined for failure.

The truth is actually somewhere in between.  Lord knows that over my 32 year career as a teacher, lead teacher and department head I have encountered quite a few teachers who had no business being in a classroom.  Yet because of the difficulties in ridding the system of such people, they return year after year.

I also know of situations where very effective teachers are often given very difficult classes because it makes life much easier for a principal who would otherwise have  to deal with unhappy parents.  This very scenario has happened to me many times.  Would it be fair to base such a teacher's evaluation on the progress of a class full of troubled students?

It's a tough problem.  I personally don't think there are enough safeguards in place to be definitive about it.  On the other hand, there has to be a way to get rid of or at the very least retrain ineffective teachers. 

I know one thing for sure.  Teachers are under great pressure these days.  It's a very difficult job.  Yes, their job performance needs to come under scrutiny but let's do it right.

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