How should teachers be evaluated?

School in the '40sThis picture gives the impression that teacher success was once based on uniformity of student haircut.

But now the focus is on “value-added ratings,” which estimate a teacher’s effectiveness based on students’ standardized test scores. In August of this year, the Los Angeles Times released value-added ratings for L.A.U.S.D. elementary school teachers.

The conclusions the Times draws are striking. Here are some highlights:

  • “Highly effective teachers routinely propel students from below grade level to advanced in a single year.”
  • “Contrary to popular belief, the best teachers were not concentrated in schools in the most affluent neighborhoods, nor were the weakest instructors bunched in poor areas…. The quality of instruction typically varied far more within a school than between schools.”
  • “Although teachers are paid more for experience, education and training, none of this had much bearing on whether they improved their students’ performance.”

The Times quickly points out that other measures must be taken into account when evaluating teachers, but that “value-added analysis offers the closest thing available to an objective assessment of a teacher’s performance.” It could also help demystify what qualities separate effective from ineffective teachers.

Teachers and teachers’ unions quickly criticized the Times for releasing the numbers. Some said standardized tests are inaccurate measures of student learning. Some were disappointed by their results. Many wondered why they hadn’t seen the data before.

Also in August, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, called for all states and school districts to release teacher’s scores, saying, “The truth is always hard to swallow, but it can only make us better, stronger and smarter.” President Obama has similarly called for greater accountability for America’s teachers.

The L.A.U.S.D. is currently negotiating with the Teachers’ Union to determine how much of a role value-added ratings will play in teachers’ performance reviews. District officials see the numbers as providing much-needed objective records of teacher performance, and they’d like the ratings to account for at least 30% of reviews.

We at the CC! National Office wonder what a greater focus on value-added ratings might mean for character education. Character building takes time, but it adds to student achievement by improving school climate. If teachers end up sacrificing character education in order to “teach to the test,” how will students fare in the long run? Will school climate suffer? Will we educate people in mind but not morals and thus, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “educate menaces to society?”

What do you think? What is the value of value-added? Should these ratings play a larger or smaller role in teacher evaluations? What aspects of your teaching don’t get represented in value-added ratings?

Add your comment below.

4 thoughts on “How should teachers be evaluated?”

  1. After 20 years in industry and earning a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, I went into education because I believe if I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem. I recently completed my Masters in Elementary Math Education. I agree that there are a plethora of ineffective teachers. A also believe that the current enthusiasm for using Standardized Tests and Value Added as a measure of success is not an effective way to ferret out ineffective teachers. Math is a complex science of pattern and order that requires multiple access points so our diverse student population has access to the concepts and thereby develop their understanding in an effective way. Standardized testing has reduced this remarkable science of mathematics into segmented and compartmentalized snippets that are taught in isolation. The most successful students are those who most successfully master these isolated ideas. In effect, Standardized Tests encourage mastery of the “one square inch” and completely avoids opportunities for students to “see the elephant.” Last year, In my experience, students are continuing to have less and less ownership in the testing process. There are no “high stakes” for them. They will move on regardless of their scores and are given little to no feedback and nearly no consequences for a low performance. I bring this up as a result of a personal situation I find myself in. In 2009 – 2010, a class of students decided they didn’t like my teaching style (I encouraged autonomous thinking and ways to see “the elephant”) so as a group many of them decided to bubble in anything they wanted on the answer sheet. As a result, this group of kids dropped between 170 and 250 points and I 1) am deemed an ineffective teacher, 2) lost my position as Department Chair (and a $750.00 stipend), 3) lost leadership positions at my school, 4) was demoted as a team leader in a $3 million Math Methods Grant I am participating in. The curriculum neither prepares the kids for the Standardized test or to become effective mathematicians. Is this a problem? I think so. Perhaps a better solution to ferret out the ineffective teacher is a review system that incorporates multiple measures of effectiveness including a three year examination of student performance (yes – Standardized Test scores.. but over time, not a one year snapshot) that results in an support group consisting of administration, fellow teachers, and parents whose job is to observe and identify deficits, review/instruction in best practices, provide training on best practices, sets up a fix-it plan and monitors the growth. The current system puts kids in my 6th grade class who are gauged as being proficient on the Standardized Test yet don’t know their multiplication facts or know how to do long division. Under these circumstances, I have no room for any Character education. Sorry Joseph. Teaching should be a whole child consideration, not an expedient to test sores.

  2. The liberal teachers unions are enough to make vomit. Their agenda is to protect poor emploees and fleece the taxpayers with no accountabilty. The flip side though is this, teachers aren’t the main problem with underperforming kids……..the primary problem are underperforming parents!! Learning, discipline, and character start (or don’t exist) at HOME! I am not a teacher, I am a conservative that thinks parents need to take responsibility for educating their kids, and the teachers unions and Dept of Education should be obolished.

  3. I agree with Mr. Russel (above comment.)
    Although I am a Substitute Teacher w.i. my school district, even after 8 years in such position, I still receive much accolade from the students and staff for “explaining the lessons differently” – so all can understand.
    I simply reply, “I’m a mere Toastmaster. Explaining is what we do best!”

  4. In the beginning when principals were the educational leader of the school and the person in charge of evaluations it was done right. Every teacher was told what week the principal was going to visit their room. This made sure the teacher was well prepared. After the classroom visit the teacher was given an evaluation form to self evaluate. When this was completed the two had a meeting to discuss their evaluation and come to some agreement on the scores. If there was a low score the principal, being the educational leader in the school, would help the teacher in that area. Time was given and the teacher was re-evaluated. We have forgot that principals were former teachers and they should remember how it should be done. Maybe it is the districts fault for placing employees in the wrong positions. A loosing football coach with only a degree in Ed Leadership has know idea how to be an evaluator or the educational leader of the school.

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