Are Good Teachers Being Harmed by Teacher Evaluation Systems?

What is the best way to evaluate a teacher? As part of educational reforms, many states are beginning to evaluate teachers based solely on standardized testing scores. But is this method fair? How would you feel if your child's well-liked and seemingly effective teacher was fired based on the testing performance of only a few students?

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No Value to Value-Added Measures?

What if your job depended on the single performance of someone else?

In essence, that's how the value-added measure used in many teacher evaluations works. Teachers are being evaluated and rated over the results of annual test scores rather than by observation and student progress within the classroom over the course of a school year. Many good teachers are now being labeled as 'ineffective.' Sound unfair? Many say yes.

To some extent, this evaluation method has served to weaken enthusiasm and morale within the teaching profession and thus has the potential to turn even the best teachers into uncaring and ineffective educators. One Florida teacher stated that, due to this evaluation method, she would be leaving the public school system to teach in a private institution.

More Than Test-Taking

It's likely that many would agree that achievement in education is more than acing a test or getting high scores on college entrance exams. And those same people might agree that teaching is more than preparing students to take a test.

What about 'test anxiety'? What happens if a particular teacher has several students who don't test well but do well on classroom assignments and homework? Has that teacher really failed?

And what of factors outside of the classroom that impact a student's life? For instance, students who come from broken or poverty-stricken homes are surely less likely to do as well in school as those students who come from a more stable environment.

The Big Picture

Quite simply, the value-added model of evaluation does not take into account many of the factors that influence student success. It would seem that teachers are unfairly being punished for things they cannot control.

So where does that leave us? Unfortunately, without much say in the matter. If your child is in a school district that utilizes value-added evaluation methods, then there is the chance your child's teacher, no matter how much you and your student may love him or her and no matter how effective this particular teacher seems to be on a daily basis, is in jeopardy if test scores fall even slightly.

This makes you wonder if the No Child Left Behind program has taught us anything; namely, that 'teaching to the test' is not without flaws. Perhaps there is no easy or perfect way to evaluate a teacher, given the many variables that must be considered, but surely a method needs to be developed that takes many, if not most, of these variables into account. How many good teachers do we need to sacrifice before reforms are made to educational reforms?

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