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Gradebook

Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Results-based teacher evaluations: Helpful or harmful?

28

November

The debate is not singular to Florida, where school districts have begun implementing new teacher evaluations this year to comply with new law adopted in the spring.

New York, California and other states also are knee-deep in the discussion, which seems to have no middle ground as the sides continue to stake out positions.

On one side, several New York school principals are protesting the move to rating teachers on test results, the NY Times reports:

"As of [Saturday] night, 658 principals around the state had signed a letter — 488 of them from Long Island, where the insurrection began — protesting the use of students’ test scores to evaluate teachers’ and principals’ performance.

"Their complaints are many: the evaluation system was put together in slapdash fashion, with no pilot program; there are test scores to evaluate only fourth-through-eighth-grade English and math teachers; and New York tests are so unreliable that they had to be rescaled radically last year, with proficiency rates in math and English dropping 25 percentage points overnight."

Yet the support for having hard numbers available to show parents and students whether they're getting a successful teacher remains strong, even amid conversation of whether the data should be made public. That's been a major concern in California.  LA Times columnist Jim Newton writes:

"It's hard to imagine a measure of more compelling interest to parents than scores that might predict the ability of teachers to help students grow academically, but the district has refused to turn over the names of teachers connected with the scores. Such disclosure, it argues, could be "embarrassing and painful." As district lawyers argued in a truly breathtaking letter explaining their refusal to disclose this information, "Imagine how the teacher would feel coming to school knowing that not only do their peers know how LAUSD rates their performance as a teacher, but their students and parents also are aware of their ratings."

"Rarely have I seen a sentence that better captures the perfectly enclosed logic of bureaucracy. Insight might embarrass employees, but the answer is not to help those employees improve or show them the door. Rather, it's to cut off insight."

Such divergent views have begun to emerge as Florida districts put new evaluations, including value-added components, into place even as they are still being built. Is there a way to appeal to both sides and come up with a consensus? It would seem to involve more conversation and collaboration than what we've seen so far. 

Some Florida lawmakers have promised "tweaks" to the rules if problems crop up. Any recommendations as to how to keep the concept and keep the peace?

[Last modified: Monday, November 28, 2011 1:57pm]

    

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