Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Teacher Assessment

So, I'm on an education kick lately on the blog. I wanted to respond to my letter of the week from Sarah. She made a lot of interesting points, but today I'm only going to respond to her problems with assessing teachers.

Sarah writes that NCLB relies on student test scores to evaluate teachers. Teachers are held responsible for their class scores. If we move to a system of merit pay and teachers with the best student test scores are paid better, than this will negatively affect teaching. Teachers will teach to the test.

"Teaching to the test" is not always a bad thing, if the test is a good one, and there is still a lot of room for creativity.

I do think that teachers shouldn't be assessed solely on their students' performance on a test. Anyone who has been in the classroom knows that sometimes you have a great class and sometimes you have a stinker.

Still, assessing teachers is not impossible. A reader today asked me, Why are we talking about systems for assessing teachers? Do we assess doctors? Lawyers? Graphic designers? All other professions are assessed, even doctors. They routinely take exams. During daily rounds, their decisions are questioned. And if they screw up, they get sued.

My husband works for a Wall Street firm. Every year, he goes through a week long evaluation. His boss evaluates him by filling in a lengthy form. Steve is also evaluated by all of his co-workers, including the secretary. Steve then evaluates his co-workers and his boss. There's a system. If he is evaluated poorly, he is fired. His bonus is based partly on this evaluation. Sure, it can be a bit subjective, but that's how it works in other professions.

Teachers also can be evaluated by other teachers and by the principal. When I taught special education, everybody knew who the good teachers were and who the bad ones were.

Of course, teachers might feel more secure about these evaluations if administrators were more well trusted and respected.

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