Monday, March 08, 2010

Boston gets an F in teacher appraisals

A powerful, important and, sadly, not at all surprising report from Boston:

A new state law that bolsters a superintendent's ability to fire teachers at underperforming schools could be undermined in Boston because administrators routinely neglect a basic task: evaluating teachers.

About half the city's approximately 5,000 teachers have not received an evaluation in the past two years, and a quarter of the city's 135 schools have not conducted evaluations during that period, according to a report commissioned by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education that was provided to the Globe yesterday.

Under the law, superintendents can terminate teachers at a failing school only for "good cause,'' elevating the importance of job evaluations to provide evidence for dismissal or as a way for teachers to challenge their firings.

The findings could also affect the debate in Boston on merit pay for outstanding teachers. Without regular evaluations, Boston leaders could face accusations of favoritism when determining which teachers should be rewarded.

The city's teacher evaluation system is "utterly dysfunctional'' and typical of a lack of teacher reviews in urban districts across the nation, according to Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, which conducted the study and characterizes itself as a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization.

"You need to have that formal record to make personnel decisions at the top and the bottom,'' Walsh said last night.

The district's inconsistency in job reviews was just one aspect of the 52-page report, which offered a mix of positive and critical points as it compared Boston with 99 other districts nationwide.

It praised the city's teachers for having high attendance rates and strong academic credentials, when compared with teachers across the country, and the city for agreeing to offer teachers competitive salaries.

But the report, which is being released as the city and teachers unions prepare to negotiate a new contract, also criticized Boston for creating a teacher termination process that was too cumbersome and prone to procedural errors, allowing underperforming teachers to remain in the system for years.


Boston gets an F in teacher appraisals

Report criticizes evaluation system, termination rules

By James Vaznis, Globe Staff  |  February 23, 2010

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