Maureen Magee - Questions raised on sparkling evaluations
Students, schools and districts in San Diego County and elsewhere are routinely evaluated by standardized tests and other measures, with the well-publicized results showing high performers but also plenty of strugglers.
What about teachers?
Research has shown that a teacher can make or break a child’s education. Yet assessments of educators locally and statewide do little to call out any problems.
A U-T San Diego review of teacher evaluations administered in the 2011-12 school year in San Diego County’s 10 largest districts shows that nearly all instructors earn top rankings in professional assessments. The pattern is the same statewide and across the nation.
In the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, 100 percent of teachers received the highest score of “satisfactory” on their evaluations. Of the districts surveyed, Cajon Valley Union was the toughest on teachers, giving 93.5 percent of them satisfactory ratings.
“Simply not credible,” said Scott Himelstein, director of the Center for Education Policy and Law at the University of San Diego. “No one would believe that in any public or private entity.”
The debate over how much teachers should be held accountable for student achievement has commanded high-profile attention in recent months.
About 26,000 teachers walked off the job in Chicago last month partly to protest a new evaluation system that heavily factors in students’ scores on standardized tests. Teachers in Los Angeles are negotiating with their district to develop an appraisal system that the courts said must take into account student-achievement data.
Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C., became the subject of controversy when she imposed an appraisal system heavily weighted with test-score data. The issue was pushed to the national forefront with the release of “Waiting for Superman,” the 2010 documentary film that painted a grim picture of public schools and featured Rhee.
“It’s clear that teacher evaluation reform is here. The question is what form it takes,” said Ric Hovda, dean of the education college at San Diego State University. “For me, the big question is, ‘Are you thinking of it as a punitive measure or are you thinking of it as a support system that could help teachers improve?’ ”
More states are using test-score data in teacher assessments, a practice that has been considered taboo for decades.
In San Diego County and California, most districts evaluate teachers every other year based on goals they set with their principals. Typically, principals and other administrators observe teachers in a series (or as few as one) of mostly scheduled classroom visits.
La Mesa-Spring Valley schools chief Brian Marshall stands by the results of an evaluation system that gave every one of his district’s teachers a satisfactory rating for the last academic year. However, he supports revamping appraisals to include data that tracks the academic growth or decline of students.
“We evaluate for a standard of satisfactory. I don’t know that if we were grading teachers for excellence, if we would have 100 percent excellence. Satisfactory? Yeah. We have really, really strong teachers, and we move out the ones who fall short or don’t hire them (beyond probationary status).”
via Debate continues on how to best gauge teacher performance | UTSanDiego.com.