The obsession with teacher evaluation
Sent to the Seattle Times, January 9
The publicity given to the latest Gates Foundation report on teacher evaluation (“Gates: Test scores not enough for teacher reviews,” January 9) adds strength to the common view that there is something very wrong with American teachers. There is, for example, no pressing concern about how we should evaluate nurses, carpenters, doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, plumbers, butchers, newspaper reporters, etc.
Every profession has some inferior practitioners, but the available evidence says that American teachers as a group are excellent. When we control for the effects of poverty, our international test scores are very good, ranking at or near the top of world.
There are two major factors preventing teachers from being even more effective: (1) The high level of child poverty in the US, 23.1%, second among high-income countries; children who are hungry, have poor health care and little access to books will not do well in school regardless of teacher quality. (2) The unreasonable demands of the Common Core: a tight, inflexible curriculum that crushes creativity, designed by elitists with little idea of what goes on in classrooms, and a massive amount of testing, more than we have ever seen on this planet.