Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Evaluating Teachers is the Problem

According to the Denver Post:

Excellent teaching goes unrecognized and poor teaching is ignored across the country and in Denver, according to a national study that says failed policies make teachers as interchangeable as widgets. The two-year study called "The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness" examined four states and 12 school districts, including those in Denver and Pueblo. It found common patterns: that teacher effectiveness rarely factors into decisions, such as how teachers are hired, fired or promoted.

"If you ask a superintendent and head of a union to name the top teachers and the bottom teachers, they couldn't tell you," said Dan Weisberg, vice president of policy for the New Teacher Project — the national nonprofit that conducted the study. "It goes back to the widget effect, which is the flawed assumption that each teacher is as good as the next."

While there is much to criticize in teaching today, there is much more to criticize in school administration. Granted, there are many stories of the difficulty schools face when they try to dismiss or discipline teachers. However, that does not excuse districts from managing their staff. Far too often, stories are revealed of all teachers receiving "satisfactory" evaluations when there are clearly ineffective and underperforming teachers on staff. In fact, Tony Wagner recounted, in his book the Global Achievement Gap, the story of his first evaluation in which he was called into the office to sign his "satisfactory" report, though he'd never been observed.

Again, start at the top people. The Rockies just fired their manager because the team was losing. Take a memo.

2 comments:

Mrs. C said...

Amen.

A much beloved music teacher is facing the axe. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this man and the vitality he brings to his class.

He is more than "just" a music teacher! He is a mentor, an eclectic expert on about everything, and one of the few people who make going to school FUN because he genuinely enjoys learning from and teaching the children.

I guess other people with seniority will go way later than he will. I note they are keeping the nasty-* old man social studies teacher who doesn't know autism from a hole in the wall. Instead of accomodating G's disability on his IEP, he makes stupid comments like, he wishes HE could take a walk whenever he'd like... or why is this kid rebellious?

(Remember? Autism? Did you give him a break when he said he was overwhelmed? That walk in the hall he's supposed to have? He's *trying* to advocate for himself but he has language problems... If you don't like teaching autistic children, go sign on to a private school where they don't take "our kind." Jerk.)

Dennis Fermoyle said...

The two-year study called "The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness" examined four states and 12 school districts, including those in Denver and Pueblo. It found common patterns: that teacher effectiveness rarely factors into decisions, such as how teachers are hired, fired or promoted.

Administrators certainly deserve their share of responsibility for this, but our tenure and seniority systems don't help. I've said this before, but it also doesn't help that many of the people who go into administration are teachers who aren't that good. They go into administration either because they just want to get out of teaching or simply because they want to make more money. Merit plays little if any role.