Teaching, like any profession, is best when there is a level of accountability, acknowledgement of success, and professional development. In order to do any of those things, we need some form of teacher evaluation. We need to evaluate to hold teachers accountable to the students, parents, school, and the standards they expect, we need evaluations to identify great teachers and reward them and acknowledge them accordingly, and we need to evaluate to help develop teachers' skills and abilities to improve their teaching for the sake of everyone involved. Administrators, teachers, and communities can all agree that evaluations are necessary. The issue, however, is how do we evaluate a teacher that is fair to the teacher but also effective at holding them accountable when they are not holding up their end of the bargain.
I will compare two current teacher evaluation systems and then follow up with what evaluations I would appreciate to be judged on that I think is fair and effective. Ultimately, the goal here is to have a system that helps students learn.
The Danielson Framework
This system breaks down teaching into twenty-two components that can be used "as the foundation of a school or district’s mentoring, coaching, professional development, and teacher evaluation processes" (Danielson Group, 2013). The different domains they concern themselves with are Planning and Preparation, Classroom Environment, Instruction, and Professional Responsibilities. Each domain has 5+ components attached to it. What I think works with this system is that it does not take one single assessment as the basis of how well a teacher is doing their jobs. They do not focus on just the students' test scores and tie it to job promotion or dismissal. They want these ideas to be integrated into developing teachers and schools and not to punish the teachers. Teachers should know the content they teach (Planning and Preparation Domain), and they should manage student behavior (Classroom Environment Domain), for example. For a complete list of the components, click the button below. What I do not think is effective with this system is how they will go about gathering this feedback. They use a rubric to assess teachers, which means this is based solely on observations. Unless the observations are happening regularly, I do not think it will be a good enough set of data to use for anything larger than professional development, like dismissal or reward. Much like we should not judge a student on one day for one test to get a proper understanding of the abilities of the student, a teacher should not be judged on one day in class. Implementing this system is another issue. They have trainers to help teach everyone involved about the system, which costs money and takes time, and the school is still possibly unable to make decisions about which teachers can be let go and which ones can be promoted based on this system. They would need another system, which seems to defeat the purpose of having a system in place.
Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System
The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) is what the state has come up with to assess their teachers. This system uses student growth scores to assess the teachers' efficacy. They use previous student scoring based on a curve system that would rank the students compared to each other. Each year, in each subject, the students would have a score that would put them on a percentile ranking based on how well they did. If they receive the exact same ranking the following year, then they have grown exactly on level. If they went up, for example from 61st percentile to 70th percentile, then that student grew more than expected (TDOE, n.d.). For a more detailed look at the system, click the button below. This system is based on the idea that the best measure of teacher effectiveness is based on student growth, not proficiency. What works about this system is that it allows for growth of students that are struggling without punishing the teacher for their struggles to meet the standards. If that student grew then the teacher was doing their job, regardless of the student having a lower starting point. This also allows for many different teaching styles to be recognised because there are no set standards for how the teacher teaches, as long as they are effective. What I don't think works is the very nature of the growth model. Growth is great, but this system could technically reward every teacher in the school, even if not a single student was proficient in any of the standards expected from the school. This reminds me of the first runs at the drag racing strip I used to go to. Cars would be matched up based on qualifying times, so many cars would run slow on purpose to get a good match up and win later. They have since fixed that loophole, but I think this system has a similar loophole. Does that happen with this system? I'm not sure, but with any system there will be people who figure out loopholes and exploit them. This system is based too heavily on testing (even if it is more than one test), for me to think it is effective. It also does not assess the ability for teachers to communicate with parents or other teachers, which should be an important part of the job.
The Tyler Coolidge Wood Assessment System
I think the best way to assess a teacher is to make sure that it is not based on one type of assessment. For example, it should not be based solely on an observation or solely on test scores. Teaching is a dynamic profession and singular data sets are not going to cover the job of assessing the job effectively. Teaching should be assessed based on data approved by all of the people involved in the process. Administrators are responsible for making sure they are hiring effective teachers and using taxpayers' money effectively to educate children. Teachers are responsible for making sure those students are learning effectively. Students, for their part, are the ones that are observing the teachers everyday for the entire year and should be considered an important voice in the process of evaluation as well. As a teacher, I understand that I should be evaluated because of the profession I am in. I am entrusted with the learning, safety, and emotional well-being of children from the community. It is not a job you can put anyone into and think it will work out fine in the end. However, I know that the way things are is making it hard to find enough people willing to do the job for the money, time, and effort it takes. All of those things should be considered. The most fair way is to have checks and balances. Student surveys, test scores, and classroom observations should be used to assess a teacher. Important decisions should not be made in haste with minimal data to go on. They should also not be made without first offering help and professional development to see if the teacher can make the changes necessary to become a more effective teacher. At the same time, teachers should be assessing their administrators and school environment to see if that is having an adverse effect on the job. Poor funding and overflowing classrooms can push a good teacher into trouble territory no matter how hard they are trying. Parents have a unique perspective as well because they see what the students are doing at home, how they feel about the school, teacher, and environment. They, too, should be involved in the process with surveys of their own. All of these things should be decided upon and laid out clearly for all involved to agree to and understand before being assessed on them. Teacher Unions should be satisfied and administrators should be satisfied. In that case, I would feel confident in the system being used. Finally, that system should be flexible and able to be updated when necessary to make sure the system is as effective as possible for as long as possible.
The Danielson Group (2013). The Framework. The Danielson Group. Retrieved from https://www.danielsongroup.org/framework/
The New Teacher Project (TNTP). (2010). Teacher Evaluation 2.0. Retrieved from http://tntp.org/publications/view/teacher-evaluation-2.0
Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE). (n.d.). Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System. TDOE. Retrieved from http://tn.gov/education/topic/tvaas