In a recent Education Week, Stephen Sawchuk wrote a piece, Tenn Teachers Union Takes Evaluation Fight Into the Courtroom, about the lawsuit that is challenging the legality of the value-added formula used in Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system. After reading the article, I was left with the question: will our fixation on teacher accountability through the use of students’ achievement test scores on high-stakes standardized tests backfire? In our haste to evaluate teachers I believe we have truly lost our way. We seem to be like a ship without a rudder or a captain without a compass. We have lost touch with the human side of teaching. Are our principals and school leaders taking time to think whether they know their teachers well or whether they understand how to give effective, targeted, and growth-oriented feedback to teachers? Would there be a need for value-added measures (VAM) of effectiveness if school leaders knew their school’s curricula well and understood how each of his or her teachers were going about designing an engaging and effective learning experience for all students? I believe the answer to this question is that VAM would be unnecessary!
Think about this passage (click here) from the Ohio Department of Education regarding value-added measurements (VAM).
Value-added analysis is a statistical method that helps educators measure the impact schools and teachers have on students’ academic progress rates from year to year. All Value-Added measures are not the same. In fact, Value-Added measures differ from state to state. Ohio has been careful to select a Value-Added measure that provides educators with information on how they can use data to focus instruction.
“All Value-Added measures are not the same,” how arbitrary does that make VAM if states take the liberty of defining value-added differently. Shouldn’t good teaching in Ohio be measured similarly to good-teaching in any other state? I mean if we believe it is important to have a common set of standards for learning that are the same across all states (Common Core), why not use criteria for measuring teacher effectiveness that are the same across all states. The research on what it takes to be a good teacher is reasonably compelling and rich with suggestions. Most importantly, we don’t need long checklists to define and evaluate good teaching. See a previous post from the Center for Teaching on VAM (click here).
Should student feedback be a part of a comprehensive and effective evaluation/feedback system? I certainly think so and in my conversations with other educators I find most people agree with that. However, we have to include the voices of teachers in the conversation, as well as in their own evaluation. The Center for Teaching posted a piece entitled, How do you measure good teaching?
We can do this work well if our vision is not clouded over by state or federal politics. One thing is for certain, if the evaluation and feedback systems we design are not “human-centered” at their core, they will fail to change our profession. Our goal should be how we guarantee a good teacher in every child’s classroom. It can be done!
Other resources on supervision and evaluation: