I attended a workshop last month on DESE’s new Performance Based Teacher Evaluation submitted for the No child Left Behind waiver. Attendance was dominated by principals and superintendents with just a few teacher like me. One of the big questions for our discussion group was “How much of student growth data should be part of the teacher evaluation?” I was a lone voice that said it should not be more than 50% (actually I think it should be less than that). My Assistant Superintendent thought it should be 100%, and everyone agreed! I was gobsmacked. Granted they were talking about student growth over time using multiple measures in addition to MAP scores. Nevertheless, there were 7 essential principles of teacher evaluation of which student data was only one.
I’ve watched and participated in several conversations in the last month about teacher evaluation. My district established a PBTE committee in anticipation of Missouri receiving the NCLB wavier. In looking at our old PBTE, we concluded that the old evaluations were focused on what the teacher taught rather than what the students learned. We agreed that our primary focus needed to be on student learning. Students need to understand the learning objective. Students need to be engaged in their learning. Students need to know whether they have learned the objective with which they started.
So how are principals going to know whether this is happening in the classroom? Of course, they should observe in the classroom multiple times. However, the rubber meets the road in evaluating student performance. That is easier for core subject classroom teachers than more specialized subjects that don’t have standardized tests like PE, Art, Music, FACS, VoAg, Computer Lab teachers, and so on.
How do we measure student success? A standardized test? A summative assessment? project scoring guide? A portfolio? I know what the Pear$on textbook and testing giant would say. I also know that teachers would say. It takes us the whole year of getting to know the people in our classrooms everyday as students, as learners, as leaders, as workers, as daughters, as sons, as sisters, as brothers, as friends, as citizens, as failures, and as successes. Yes, we know their test scores, but that doesn’t necessarily make them who they are. Does it?
There has been a shift in thinking in education reform over the last few years. People outside education: politicians, testing and textbook companies, and business people have grown in their influence on public education. They vilify teachers as greedy, use standardized test scores to label public schools as failures, and promote for-profit charter schools as THE solution. I reject the corporate mentality of treating students as widgets and teachers as factory workers who can be fired on the whim of their bosses. We are professionals and our students are human beings. And we seem to be the only ones who understand that.
Should we be evaluated on how successful we make our students? Yes, but… Students are the success they want to be, They are the success we poke them and prod and push them to be. They are the success they achieve when they give it their all, and achieve their goals. You can’t always measure that on a test.
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