There was a lengthy discussion on The Diane Rehm Show the other day: Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness. I didn’t hear the entire show but it’s a topic I am interested in, having been a teacher, so I will go back and listen to the whole show this weekend.
Of course I have to note the panel of “experts” was made up of a senior fellow from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a professor of business from Columbia Business School, the chief of human capital (hey, that’s what they call him, maybe “personnel director” is too boring?) for Washington, D.C. Public Schools and a teacher. Actually an ex-teacher; she taught for four years and departed the profession.
I’m not sure why these “expert” panels rarely have teachers who have been teaching 25 years. Or a principal from a large public school with entrenched teaching staff. The big-name university and foundations have plenty of brain power, but teachers who work in schools every day have more practical experience, insight and insider knowledge.
But it’s an interesting discussion because measuring teacher performance is not easy. Training teachers is not easy either because the classrooms teachers teach in vary widely.
The show mentions test scores as measure of teacher effectiveness. Most people not in the government bureaucracy consider test scores just one small part of the measure of student learning. So how can test scores be any more effective to evaluate teacher performance?
I have a vivid memory from one of my first years teaching middle school. I was sitting with my team of sixth-grade teachers and we were talking about rumors about paying teachers based on student test scores.
One of my teammates slammed her grade book on the desk and exclaimed, “I’ll be damned if my pay is going to be based on how (name of student) does on a test!” The student she named was a very low performing student, mostly because he had zero interest in anything going on in school. His parents were getting a divorce, so he got all kinds of attention from both of them when he did poorly at school.
Have a listen. Let me know what you think.