Monday, April 22, 2013

Brent Staples on Teacher Evaluation Systems

The NYT’s Brent Staples with an excellent editorial on teacher evaluation systems:

Ross Wiener, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Education and Society Program, said recently that this dynamic — an obsessive focus on holding teachers accountable for test scores without an equal emphasis on actually improving classroom teaching — could fatally undermine the effort to create meaningful evaluation systems.

The balancing of those two aims is the central challenge of the evaluation systems being developed across the nation. Only a few rigorous systems have been up and running for even three years. But some reformers are recommending the model used by Aspire Public Schools, a K-12 charter school group that serves more than 12,500 mainly low-income students in California. Aspire says that 100 percent of its high school graduates are admitted to four-year colleges. Forty percent of a teacher’s evaluation relies on test scores — 30 percent from the teacher’s own students and 10 percent from the overall school results. But 60 percent is taken from classroom observations, peer feedback and student and parent surveys.

Aspire emphasizes teacher training, offering frequent programs in many different forms. Teachers work closely with the principals and lead teachers. Perhaps most crucially, every new teacher gets an instructional coach who provides one-on-one help, often for as long as two years. Teachers are given “effectiveness bonuses” as they improve. Those who perform poorly can, of course, eventually be dismissed. But the evaluation system is focused on learning, for teachers as well as students. Administrators say it takes about 10,000 hours of practice — or about seven years — for a teacher to become an expert. The point is not to push people out the door but to teach newcomers what they need to know to do the job well.

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