Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Some random thougts on teacher evaluations and effectiveness

In response to this article on our new state superintendent.

One of the complaints is that under the old system, some 99% of teachers are labeled as effective.  How can that be?! the cynics question.  There have to be more ineffective ones!  And on with the witch hunt and the standardized testing to find the supposedly ineffective teachers.

I'll believe 99% effectiveness and I'll tell you why--

1.  Our colleges actually do a good job training teachers--as they're intended to.
2.  People who are going into teaching are doing it because they want to see it done well--they're motivated because they *want* to be effective . . . for the kids.  It's too hard of a job for someone who doesn't feel like they're managing or making a difference.  The ineffective ones in many cases, wash themselves out.
3.  Teaching jobs are hard enough to come by that our principals have lots of good choices when they're hiring.  Our principals are good at what they do and hire the effective teachers in the first place.
4.  They're aided in this by the fact that many (or most) teachers have been screened pretty well by the time they're hired.  Teachers often work as subs, Title 1 aides, etc., before being hired on for a classroom.  The principals already know who these people are before they hire them.
5.  "Effective" is actually a pretty low standard.  To say it's "effective" is to say, in essence, "Eh--it works . . . well enough."  Most teachers are actually better than that.  But the "good enough" standard is not actually that hard to reach for people who have been well taught, who are experienced, who are teaching because they want to, and have been hand-picked from a large pool.  In fact--most teachers are better than that.

My mom is a teacher.  I have friends who are teachers.  And we have three kids in school.  And not only have none of my kids ever had a teacher I would label as ineffective--none of the parents I know have either.  (Check that--we did have a bad preschool experience once, but even Obama isn't trying to regulate the preschools yet).  Mostly, our teacher experiences have been phenomenal.  We had one time when we just didn't have a good personality fit between our daughter and her teacher--but that didn't mean the teacher was bad. She wasn't.  There was also one time when a teacher was just having a really rough year.  But again, didn't mean she was a bad teacher.

So let's back off on the regulations and the witch hunts.  Let's let the school districts do their already hard enough job without federal mandates are committee created evaluations.  Let's unschackle our creative, effective, motivated, hand-picked teachers to just do the one thing that they really want to do--help our kids.  Because they truly are the 99%.