I recently read a detailed profile of two teachers experiencing the new evaluation system for teachers in Washington DC. As I first read the article I was intrigued to see that the DC evaluation system was using master teachers as evaluators. In the wake of Michelle Rhee, the media focused on teachers being fired due to test scores and all the controversy around the creation of this new system, the dynamic of two teachers collaborating seemed so right to me. This article makes it seem as thought test scores were only 25% of that evaluation, and that observations by master teachers and administrators made up the other 75%. While I disagree with tests scores weighing that heavily (if at all until reliable tests can be created), I was glad to see fellow professionals with real classroom experience having a role in the evaluation process. I think there is a lot that other schools can learn from the IMPACT model in DC, and some things that DC schools themselves could work to improve their systems.
The title of the article itself truly captures the heart of the conflict about teacher evalutaions – it is a delicate conversation. I have spoken with fellow teachers, union leaders, and principals who all have strong opinions/convictions about what should and should not be included in an evaluation and how that information should be gathered. I don’t think there are any simple answers nor should there be. We’re not only talking about careers, but we’re also talking about the lives of those teachers and the children they reach. As Patricia Hinchey indicated at the Education Reform Symposium I attented, a perfect system for teacher evaluation has yet to be created. School districts need to work together – adminstration, union leadership and teachers – to study the current methods of evaluation that currently exist and then pull in those pieces that will work best for their particular situation.
One final thought, as I read the article there was an assertion reported by DC schools that teachers have a larger impact on student achievement than poverty. I could see Diane Ravitch shaking her head in disagreement when I read that sentence.
The good news in all of this is that the conversations are happening. They are happening at our lunch tables, in our local districts, within the union leadership, certainly at the policy table, and across the country using great resources such as the VIVA project.