Evaluating Teachers: New York Times Editorial!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times editorial today comments on teacher evaluations particularly in light of the Chicago teachers strike.  Entitled, In Search of Excellent Teaching, it references several evaluation systems around the country that have successfully used student test scores.  There is great variation in how student test scores and other performance measures are used.  The editorial is balanced and provides both sides of the arguments for and against.  Its conclusion:

“Reasonable school officials understand that test scores, while important, do not reflect the sum total of what good teachers provide for their students. In Washington, D.C., where the evaluation system is now in its fourth year, school officials have decided to change the weighting of tests. Originally, value-added scores accounted for 50 percent of teacher evaluations; that has been reduced to 35 percent, with an additional 15 percent consisting of other goals (like the students’ mastery of certain skills) collaboratively arrived at by teacher and principal.

Officials there say they reduced the importance of value-added scores after some of the most successful teachers expressed anxiety about the measure and argued that it might not give some teachers full credit for their work because they teach subjects not covered by the state tests.

Many of these new programs are better than the slipshod evaluation systems they replaced. But they are far from perfect. States and cities, like Chicago, will need to keep working at them to ensure fairness, accuracy and transparency.”

I agree that school districts need to keep working on teacher evaluation systems that include some aspect of student performance.  Related to this is the need for school districts to be careful of putting so much emphasis on testing (i.e., teaching to the test) that real learning suffers.