Monday, March 05, 2012

States Try to Fix Quirks in Teacher Evaluations

Jenny Anderson in the NYT with a fair article on how states are struggling to develop a fair teacher evaluation system:

Steve Ball, executive principal at the East Literature Magnet School in Nashville, arrived at an English class unannounced one day this month and spent 60 minutes taking copious notes as he watched the teacher introduce and explain the concept of irony. "It was a good lesson," Mr. Ball said.

But under Tennessee's new teacher-evaluation system, which is similar to systems being adopted around the country, Mr. Ball said he had to give the teacher a one — the lowest rating on a five-point scale — in one of 12 categories: breaking students into groups. Even though Mr. Ball had seen the same teacher, a successful veteran he declined to identify, group students effectively on other occasions, he felt that he had no choice but to follow the strict guidelines of the state's complicated rubric.

"It's not an accurate reflection of her as a teacher," Mr. Ball said.

Spurred by the requirements of the Obama administration's Race to the Top competition, Tennessee is one of more than a dozen states overhauling their evaluation systems to increase the number of classroom observations and to put more emphasis on standardized test scores. But even as New York State finally came to an agreement last week with its teachers' unions on how to design its new system, places like Tennessee that are already carrying out similar plans are struggling with philosophical and logistical problems.

Principals in rural Chester County, Tenn., are staying late and working weekends to complete reviews with more than 100 reference points. In Nashville, teachers are redesigning lessons to meet the myriad criteria — regardless of whether they think that is the best way to teach. And at Bearden High School in Knoxville, Tenn., physical education teachers are scrambling to incorporate math and writing into activities, since 50 percent of their evaluations will be based on standardized tests, not basketball victories.

If it were a perfect world, of course, we wouldn't need all of this.  We could just give principals various tools to evaluate teachers, but at the end of the day, principals would have full power to hire and fire as they see fit (with exceptions of course for age and race discrimination, etc.).  This is how it works at KIPP, my daughters' private school – and, come to think of it, almost ALL places of employment!  It's only in a bizzaro world of K-12 public schools that every employee feels that they have a job for life regardless of performance…


States Try to Fix Quirks in Teacher Evaluations

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, right, and other state officials announced a deal on teacher evaluations Thursday.

Published: February 19, 2012

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