Monday, March 05, 2012

Setting The Record Straight On Teacher Evaluations: Scoring and the Role of Standardized Exams

I can't recall even one instance in which I've largely agreed with UFT leader Leo Casey, so it's noteworthy that I think he's spot-on in defending the NY State teacher evaluation system from critics like Ravitch.  I hope you're sitting down, but he concludes by saying "The evaluation status quo is failing New York students and teachers, as the next post in this series – on the appeals process – will make clear. Change is necessary.":

New York is on the road to teacher evaluations that will engage educators in meaningful professional dialogue, provide them with essential supports, and give them the tools to hone their craft. With evaluations based on multiple measures, evaluations will be more comprehensive, more accurate and fairer, and in sharp contrast to other states such as Florida and Tennessee, the role of standardized testing in the evaluation will be minimized. With collective bargaining playing a key role in the shaping of "on the ground" evaluations, teacher unions have the input that will allow us to protect the educational integrity and fairness of the evaluation process.

Unfortunately, complexity has provided a fertile ground for commentaries on the New York teacher evaluation framework that reach alarmist conclusions, with arguments built on a foundation of misinformation and groundless speculation. A widely circulated piece by Long Island Principal Carol Corbett Burris, published on the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog, is in the thrall of this alarmist alchemy. Burris decries the law and last week's agreement as allowing "test scores… to trump all." Under its scoring, a teacher could be "effective" in all components of the evaluation and yet still receive an overall rating of "ineffective." The law, Burris concludes, is creating an evaluation system in which schools and students will "lose great teachers." At the Bridging Differences blog, Diane Ravitch has now taken up Burris' argument, repeating her main points as gospel.

…While a change of the complexity required by the new teacher evaluation system is daunting, it should not lead us to romanticize a failed evaluation status quo. As it now stands, evaluations are based on a single measure, the principal's subjective rating of the teacher. In arriving at this rating, the principal may employ any framework or standards s/he finds fitting to observe and rate the teacher. A teacher who is fortunate to have an educator with integrity as his/her principal will have little to fear from this evaluation process. Yet even in these cases, the teacher rarely receives the feedback and support that will allow him/her to grow as a professional educator. This is especially the case for novice teachers and teachers experiencing difficulties in their classrooms, as they seldom receive the support they need to develop their craft and become skilled teachers. And in an era when the powers that be no longer deem educational experience and accomplishment to be the requisite qualities of a principal, far too many teachers find themselves with an unqualified principal, and are victimized by a politicized evaluation process that has precious little to do with education. The evaluation status quo is failing New York students and teachers, as the next post in this series – on the appeals process – will make clear. Change is necessary.


Setting The Record Straight On Teacher Evaluations: 
Scoring and the Role of Standardized Exams

Feb. 22, 2012
3:28 pm
by Leo Casey 

Filed under: Education

(This is the first of two posts on the new teacher evaluations, focusing on the overall scoring of the evaluations and the role of standardized exams. The second post will take up the question of appeals.)

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