Marc Koroshan is a teacher in the college and public schools as well as a representative of teachers through his union activities. He is a frequent commenter on this blog.
The debate that Ed in the Apple discusses in Teacher Evaluation: The Student Learning Objectives (SLO) Monstrosity Looms Over Teachers and Principals (http://mets2006.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/teacher-evaluation-the-student-learning-objectives-slo-monstrosity-looms-over-teachers-and-principals/ ) is certainly the one taking place right now, but its very complexity should alert everyone to how ridiculous it is to try to boil an activity as complex as teaching down to a simple formula for success or failure.
The problems with test scores and with student learning objectives are well defined in the post. Without an agreed upon curriculum, something the NYC Department of Education is unwilling to do and that the Common Core does not offer, it is left to individual teachers to decide on the content and SLOs they will teach. This makes comparisons from room to room meaningless in a statistical sense.
It is important to take note that the observation system is also riddled with problems that make using it for a formula also extremely problematical.
Danielson, the Santa Clara standards and other similar work makes it clear that we have a growing consensus on what good teaching should look like.However, those skills have to be applied in real life settings where the children are highly variable.
Ed’s example of a second grade class in a wealthy community versus the same grade in a poverty stricken district (or one that has just suffered a natural disaster like Sandy), is very apt.We know that standardized tests are very good at measuring what students bring to school from their first learning environment, home.This sets up an achievement gap from the very beginning of school, which is only exacerbated as those who had more to start with get to build on that stronger foundation.
What formula will account for how teachers should address these differences in classes?Will the observation system recognize that teachers have to make choices about how much direct instruction to provide or will it insist that everyone use the Workshop Model even where students need to learn the content and skill of collaborative learning before it can work effectively.
Those of us who have taught know that no lesson works, no matter how well planned, the same way in different classes.How will the observation system account for that.
What will prevent the observation system from becoming a checklist of things that principals take note of in a ten minute visit and then write about with no real discussion with the teacher of why the s/he made the choices s/he did.Ten minute observations lack context and any judgments have to await the discussion that fills in the blanks.The rubrics in Danielson have merit, but only when they are used as a vehicle for discussing what happened in the classroom.The discussion has merit, but it really works best when the observer is able and willing to offer specific suggestions for alternative choices and is prepared to model how s/he would make those choices work.
What is needed is not a formula for evaluating teachers but a clear and meaningful commitment to helping every teacher grow in the profession.
This requires that we ensure that everyone involved in schools is an educator.One who is willing to practice teaching, model good practice, and create the opportunity for real dialogue about how best to serve the students in front of us every day.
New York State United Teachers has sent out a button that describes what is happening in the debate over how to create a formula for measuring Teacher Effectiveness.It reads, “Those Who Can Teach.Those Who Cannot Pass Laws About Teaching.”In what other profession that involves complex decision making and expertise developed over time are politicians trying to determine a formula that will guide practice? Do we really believe that they are well equipped to develop that formula?