Pragmatic teacher evaluation systems are one (among many) important policies that can help student achieverment. Arne Duncan’s recent HuffPo column introducing the new report on Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system is exciting for several reasons:
1) Incorporaing student test scores into an evaluation system is justifiably unsettling and frustrating for teachers. I was in the fortunate situation at a turnaround school wherein student gains in my scores were a potential boost to my evaluation and merit pay program, but in their absence, my evaluation didn’t suffer. That’s fine for a new teacher, but for years 3, 4, and 5 in the classroom, teachers need to know if and how they’re changing student achievement, and use that knowledge to drive their professional development. Standardized test scores are an imperfect way of measuring this, but just because they’re imperfect doesn’t mean they’re unusable. Duncan:
First, student growth can and should be one of a number of measures in evaluating the performance of teachers – and it’s important not to ignore a teacher’s impact on student learning just because it is difficult to measure. Better evaluation systems improve classroom instruction.
Even though it’s difficult to measure, Tennessee went ahead and tried. I doubt a single teacher got sacked because of this 35% of the eval based on test scores, and now the state has tons of data on the effectiveness of that measure, and can improve upon it as evaluations continue.
2) If you don’t try a new evaluation system, you’ll never know how to create a better evaluation system. Sure it took a massive amount of political and administrative wrangling, but the state just did it, and this report is evidence that they’re now going to reflect upon it and make improvements:
It’s true that there is no perfect system of teacher evaluation, but Tennessee did not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. They insisted on asking the compared-to-what question – how do the strengths and weaknesses of the new system compare to the old system?
3) A good friend of mine left DC to work on this teacher evaluation overhaul. I’m proud of her.