When Teacher Evaluation Goes Bad
Abandoning research and common sense, state legislatures and school districts around the country have implemented new teacher evaluation systems that include student test scores. The fact that test scores are included isn’t the problem. It’s that the scores can count as much as 30-50% of a teacher’s evaluation and in many cases are inaccurate.
For the life of me I can’t figure out what the big rush to judgment is all about. Why not implement a plan that includes test scores as maybe 5-10% of a teacher’s evaluation at first to make sure that scores are used accurately? Why not use a three-year average? Why not pilot the idea for a year or two before going full-bore ahead? Why not assure teachers that no jobs would be lost because of test scores for the first, say, three years until all the bugs had been worked out? And given the huge variables that impact test scores, why not limit their use to no more than 20% of a teacher’s final evaluation?
Using test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation is not in itself a bad idea. The idea of being measured
against some objective criteria is not unreasonable; results do matter. But test scores are just one result, and we all know that they are not as “objective” as some might think. While elementary competencies are reasonably well defined, no secondary subject area teacher can guess with 100% accuracy which topics will appear on a state test in any given year. And every year the cut-off points and the way in which tests are graded are adjusted.
So what’s the fall-out from this rush to judgment of our teachers? Well, we could start with cheating scandals. Then there are the teachers at the bottom percentile one year and the top percentile the next despite doing the same thing with the same kinds of kids. Good teachers get fired. The annual MetLife survey reports that teacher satisfaction has dropped 10 points while the numbers of teachers who say they’ll leave the profession in the next 5 years increased. And Florida teachers brought suite against the state for lumping groups of teachers’ scores together and assigning them to everyone (could an idea be more stupid?).
So after all this turmoil, have we seen a great uptick in student scores? Has teaching drastically improved? Is everyone happier with the current situation? Of course not.
So where do we go from here? Is there a way to review and revise decisions that have already been made and implemented? Or are teachers now stuck for years with a good idea run amok by people who failed to think about the consequences of poor planning?