Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Need to Understand Teacher Quality

Director and Instructor, Engineering and Mathematics Institute of Technology at Forest High School
On March 3, 2011 Secretary Arne Duncan on the National Call on Flexibility and Productivity stated, “We're challenging states and districts to use teacher effectiveness in the classroom as a factor in teacher layoffs. Districts should not let go of effective young teachers because it's the easiest path and they should not let go effective, higher-paid veterans to save money.”

This would be ideal if we did not have a teacher evaluation system that is broken. We cannot talk about teacher quality without considering principal quality and the quality of the evaluation instrument. Currently vast numbers of educators are evaluated by an instrument that is broken and by individuals who do not have time to effectively use the evaluation tool that currently exist. Countless of these instruments do not include critical Value Added components.

The intent of the evaluation tool needs to be a clear. Is it a tool for dismissal, or understanding how to strengthen and develop educators and the profession? If the tool is used for the latter, there is a need to expand it to look at factors that support and impede effectiveness.
This tool should give educators and the public a realistic look at students, testing, teaching assignments, interventions, and make clear the penalty for poor performance. The data such an instrument would provide could be used to determine the best use of the teachers’ talents and the most effective professional development for enhancement or improvement. Such an instrument does not presently exist.

Many states are currently in a race to implement new teacher quality legislation without realizing the time and expertise required for this task. A number of states think a fair, accurate, and valid instrument can be developed and implemented in a matter of months. Very few, if any, states have the resources or personnel to develop a scientifically valid, comprehensive evaluation tool. I think we can learn from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards in this area. These standards and the accompanying assessments took years to create, field test and refine. My hope is that the National Board’s process of standards development is used to create an effective teacher and principal evaluation tool.