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October 25, 2011
September 03, 2009
Kathleen Porter-Magee is half right,
maybe two thirds.
Principals should indeed be responsible for evaluating the teachers in their
schools—and should have the authority to engage, retain, deploy, and
dismiss individual instructors (and other school staff) according to their best
That does not, however, mean "education reformers [should]
get out of the business of trying to improve the civil service rules of our
broken education bureaucracies...." Surely she doesn't want the system's
present HR rules and practices to endure intact. And surely they're not going
to be wiped away altogether. So they need to be reformulated. And one crucial
area of reform (among many) does involve teacher evaluations and the
appropriate use of student achievement information—test scores and more—within such evaluations.
No, teacher evaluations should not be based entirely on student
test scores. No, I don't think such evaluations should be made public (though
significant portions of them should be accessible to parents, especially the
parts linked to student achievement within teachers' classrooms). But chaos
will reign if there are no district or statewide practices, templates, model
programs, and suchlike for teacher evaluations. Though I can picture an
education system consisting entirely of charter-like schools, each with the
freedom to determine its own evaluation system—more
or less what I believe Kathleen has in mind—I
cannot picture a traditional district where neighboring schools follow
radically different protocols for evaluating their teachers. Imagine, say,
having student value-added scores count for 35 percent of a 5th grade teacher's
evaluation at the Jefferson School but for 65 percent for a comparable teacher
at the nearby Lincoln School. It just won't work and it just won't happen.
I respectfully suggest that my friend Kathleen rethink that
one-third (or maybe half) of her approach.