How Should Teachers Be Evaluated?

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Should test scores be used as a way to measure teacher performance? The question these days is not so much "should"--  but "how"?

In Massachusetts, teacher unions are attempting to control their own fate by having a hand in creating the guidelines.

From The Boston Globe:

Many teachers unions around the country, including the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, have opposed efforts to include standardized tests such as the MCAS in firing decisions, arguing that such tests fail to capture the full range of learning experiences and penalize teachers charged with educating students from challenging backgrounds. But the association says that the change is inevitable and that teachers would be better off shaping it.

“We have to be the architects of reform, rather than the subject of it,’’ said Paul Toner, the union’s president. “We have always said we’re not here to protect bad teachers.’’

Massachusetts' teacher evaluations would be different than other states' in the way they take into account more than just student test scores.

More aggressive states have sought to make test scores the centerpiece of teacher evaluations, worth as much as 50 percent of a teacher’s grade. The association’s approach would not do that. Instead, it would rate teachers based on other factors, including classroom observation, and then use student achievement measures to validate those judgments. If test scores did not match the rest of a teacher’s evaluation, the teacher would be reassessed.

Teachers with the highest marks would have the opportunity to earn more money by mentoring and performing other special jobs. Those that do poorly would be put on a one-year improvement plan and be dismissed if they fail to improve. (Teachers with less than three years on the job could be dismissed without a one-year plan.)

At a time when the Internet is making evaluations more transparent and public, and with ever-more attention being focused on student achievement, it seems like a smart move for educators to define how they'll be evaluated.