Backers of the new approaches say that change takes time. “You have to start the process somewhere,” said Daniel Weisberg, executive vice president and general counsel at The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit agency founded in 1997. “If you don’t solve the problem of teacher quality, you will continue to have an achievement gap.”
States “are racing ahead based on promises made to Washington or local political imperatives that prioritize an unwavering commitment to unproven approaches,” said Grover J. Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “There’s a lot we don’t know about how to evaluate teachers reliably and how to use that information to improve instruction and learning.”
Steve Ball, executive principal at the East Literature Magnet School in Nashville, arrived at an English class unannounced one day this month and spent 60 minutes taking copious notes as he watched the teacher introduce and explain the concept of irony. “It was a good lesson,” Mr. Ball said.But under Tennessee’s new teacher-evaluation system, which is similar to systems being adopted around the country, Mr. Ball said he had to give the teacher a one — the lowest rating on a five-point scale — in one of 12 categories: breaking students into groups. Even though Mr. Ball had seen the same teacher, a successful veteran he declined to identify, group students effectively on other occasions, he felt that he had no choice but to follow the strict guidelines of the state’s complicated rubric.“It’s not an accurate reflection of her as a teacher,” Mr. Ball said.. . . .Each observation focuses on one or two of four areas: instruction, professionalism, classroom environment and planning. Afterward, the observer scores the teacher according to the state’s detailed and computerized system. Instruction, for example, has 12 subcategories, including “motivating students” and “presenting instructional content.” Motivating students, in turn, has subcategories like “regularly reinforces and rewards effort.” In all, there are 116 subcategories.. . . .For principals, it is not just the observations, but also the pre-conference (where teachers explain and show the lesson), the post-conference (where observers explain what teachers might have done better) and four to six hours inputting data. “We are spending a lot of time evaluating people we know are very good teachers,” Mr. Kilzer said.For principals, it is not just the observations, but also the pre-conference (where teachers explain and show the lesson), the post-conference (where observers explain what teachers might have done better) and four to six hours inputting data. “We are spending a lot of time evaluating people we know are very good teachers,” Mr. Kilzer said.. . . .Gera Summerford, president of the Tennessee Education Association, compared the new evaluations to taking your car to the mechanic and making him use all of his tools to fix it, regardless of the problem, and expecting him to do it in an hour.