Teacher Quality and Evaluation

I think that most of us have at least one teacher in our own education who was above the rest. The lucky people have several like that. These are the teachers who really inspired us, who taught us the most, and who really made our education more meaningful. But I find that many teachers do not want to admit, at least not out loud, that there are some teachers who are better or worse than average. To do so would open the door for real evaluations and ultimately differentiated pay.

The myth I hear expressed time and again is that all teachers should be paid the same because they are all doing the same work. And that is true to some extent but some people just do it better. Sometimes a lot better. Sometimes, obviously, a lot worse. Many teachers do not trust their administrators to be fair judges of teacher quality though. All too often this distrust is warranted. Other times teachers are uncertain of their own quality of teaching. We know that in many fields women tend to under-estimate their ability while men over-estimate it. Teaching is a field that is dominated by women so we should not be surprised that people who may be more concerned about how they would fare in a fair evaluation are avoiding being evaluated.

The press for evaluation teachers on student test scores is an attempt to add some objectivity into the teacher evaluation process. If this were being done right it might work. But of course it is not being done right. Comparing how a teacher does with one group of students does with a totally different group is completely flawed and invalid as a tool. That is what No Child Left behind does and so it should be no surprise that intelligent teachers reject it.

It is a complex problem that refuses a simple solution. That being said it is one we really need to address.

One Response to “Teacher Quality and Evaluation”

  1. Matt says:

    In high school, I always thought that students should get to fill out teacher evaluations on the days when teachers gave their students progress reports. Although, in hindsight, the teachers I liked in high school aren’t necessarily the ones I appreciate today. Some had really easy classes, but I didn’t learn anything. Others had rigorous courses and prickly personalities, but I still recall just how much I learned.

    The other risk with standardized testing, even if you could account for differences in demographics between groups of students, is the whole issue of teaching to the test. It wasn’t always because of standardized tests, but I had a lot of teachers who sought to fill my mind with useless information, without ever really demonstrating why any of it mattered or what it meant. And that’s a tremendous disservice to students.

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