Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Teacher Accountability

Teachers, by and large, are not opposed to creating measures of accountability for teacher performance.  Teachers do tend to be anxious about just how the measurements will be taken.  The new law requiring that teacher evaluation include some aspect of student performance will be taking effect within a couple years.  

That's why we need to get to work crafting effective teacher evaluation measures.

Teacher evaluation instruments need to be clear and useful.  Year on year comparison of state standardized test scores do not show teacher effectiveness with a specific student or set of students, and do not account for differences in student performance that arise across different groups of students from one year to the next.  Such year on year comparisons don't really tell all that much about how a specific teacher is doing.

We need, therefore, to develop inexpensive measurements of teacher performance that specifically determine students' growth from September to June.

Teacher evaluations need to be created with some understanding that individual teachers can be in very different stages of professional development.  I am a substantially different teacher today--5 years after starting--than I was during my first year in the class room.  

We need, therefore, evaluation processes that support the development of really effective teachers through consistent work on the part of the individual teachers and the supporting school leadership.

Teacher evaluation processes need to be supple.  We need measurement instruments that take account of factors beyond the schools' control.  Student absenteeism, health or itinerancy, for instance, can adversely affect a student's performance, irrespective of what the school or teacher does to address the situation.

We need, therefore, to develop measurements of student performance that account for important unusual circumstances in some students' school year.

Teacher evaluations need to have a human element.  There are a wide variety of styles, dispositions and personalities that can all be effective in the class room.  It takes discernment by school leaders to understand these nuances.

We need, therefore, to create a reliable teacher evaluation process that enables the students, parents, staff and leadership to talk productively about each child's education and how teachers can best maximize that student's performance.

Teacher accountability can stimulate better, more effective long as the measurements of accountability are clear, thorough and useful for parents, teachers and school leaders.

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