Confusion abounds on teacher evaluations

As I was going through my blog reader this morning, I came across a fascinating juxtaposition.

First, part of the ongoing series in Hechinger Report on the new evaluation system that has become law in neighboring Louisiana. The article notes:

In English, math, science, and social studies, teachers will be measured on their students’ progress on existing state tests. But Louisiana school districts have broad latitude when selecting the exams that will be used in subjects without standard state tests. In some cases, district officials are letting teachers choose or design the assessments on which they will be judged. In other cases, school boards, superintendents, or principals are picking the exams without consulting or even notifying teachers.[emphasis mine]

State Superintendent John White said state officials recommended a few possible exams in subjects like foreign languages. They also offered guidance on acceptable learning targets for students, and advice as to how administrators can use those targets to decide whether an individual teacher is “effective.” But they felt that it would be “a mistake to impose a test.”

“Our philosophy is that local leadership should be empowered,” he said.

That last phrase is only comforting if you have competent and responsible local leadership. I’m thinking of the school district in which three of my grandchildren attend school, where the entire school board is appointed and not one member has or has ever had a child attend the public schools.

Just above that was this post from one of the Teacher Ambassadors at the U.S. Department of Education explaining the Department’s official position on use of standardized testing in teacher evaluations. Marciano Guttierrez, teacher from Mountain View, California notes that:

At a speech to the National Council for Social Studies, Mr. Duncan stated, “Just to be 100 percent clear—evaluation should never be based only on test scores. That would be ridiculous. It should also include factors like principal observation or peer review, student work, parent feedback. It should be designed locally—and teachers should be at the table to help design it.” The Department’s work on educator evaluations has thus been to promote multiple measures to elicit a well-rounded perspective on one’s craft and to encourage districts and schools to primarily use these tools as a means for quality professional development. This thinking was also captured in a speech that the Secretary made to Baltimore County teachers this past fall….

…As a previous Teacher Fellow with the Hope Street Group, and in my current work with Race to the Top states, I have seen a variety of state-developed approaches and strategies that aim to meet this vision. I have come to realize that the strongest evaluation systems have been developed with robust teacher input at every stage of the process.  These evaluation systems, which are designed and improved with the practical insight of teachers, use test scores as only one of multiple measures of effectiveness, therefore allowing teachers of students like mine, to demonstrate quality teaching in ways that transcend test scores alone.

So why all the confusion? Why are so many places trying to develop teacher evaluations as if there are no guidelines, no models, and no professional educators to help design them? How is the teacher evaluation process developing where you are?

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