Teachers need to take responsibility for their profession, define what it means to be a good teacher, and play a role in deciding who should enter and remain in the profession. Teachers can do this by leading the effort to overhaul teacher evaluation rather than reacting to others’ evaluation plans.
For too long, we have tolerated teacher evaluation systems that are mere formalities designed to meet a state or district mandate. Worse, when evaluation is only used for punitive reasons, it does not improve practice or increase student learning. Teacher evaluation, for most teachers, has not been about access to meaningful professional development or about opportunities to discuss how to improve their schools. It has not been about ensuring quality. It has not met the unique needs of either novice or veteran teachers in critical areas such as instruction and assessment, classroom management, parental involvement and teacher collaboration. Teacher evaluation in most school districts is not the catalyst for professional growth. It is time for that to change.
Teachers know what good teaching is—it is inspiring children to explore their world, to learn how it operates and how to express their understanding of it, and to respect others with different opinions. It is challenging students to acquire more knowledge and use it wisely. It is providing them with the opportunity to reach their potential intellectually, socially and emotionally. Good teachers have high expectations for their students, and use a variety of materials and resources to plan lessons, monitor instruction and assess student learning. Good teachers know the value of collaborating with other teachers, parents and administrators to ensure that students are successful. Good teachers understand that teaching is not merely pouring content into children. It is about facilitating learning: motivating children to learn, giving them the support necessary to develop skills and knowledge, and helping them overcome problems and assume responsibility for their actions and their learning.
Good teachers are not born; rather, they are carefully and systematically cultivated through rigorous recruitment, preparation, induction and continuous professional development. Yes, comprehensive teacher evaluation, when done right, can weed out those who should not remain in the profession. But more important, it can take good teachers and make them great. Teaching is a profession built on the hard work, reflection, care, persistence and intellect of great teachers. We must do everything we can to ensure we protect the profession and provide our students with an education that will truly prepare them for the future.
Components of a Teacher Evaluation System
- Professional teaching standards advance a common, comprehensive vision of the profession. They communicate a shared understanding about what is important for teachers to know and be able to do to promote student learning and professional growth, and are key to defining the practices that good teachers use to facilitate student learning.
- Standards for assessing teacher practice must include evidence of both good teaching practice and student learning. The system must consider the weight it gives to the evidence of each—teaching practice and student learning. Determining teacher quality requires that the diverse evidence—classroom observations, parent surveys, student test scores, other evidence of student learning, etc.—be assembled into a single system to create a profile of teacher accomplishment. Measurement must consider issues such as weighting, standard setting and overall scoring.
- Standards for implementation should address the important details of the evaluation, such as how teachers are involved, who evaluates them, how often evaluation takes place, how the results of the evaluation will be used, and how the results are communicated to teachers. The purposes of evaluation must be considered when answering these questions.
- Standards for professional contexts describes a school’s teaching and learning conditions. Teachers and students will not thrive in an environment that is not conducive to teaching and learning. These conditions include both physical and structural elements of schools, as well as elements that influence a school’s culture and climate. Measures for assessing teaching and learning conditions should consider the following factors: time, facilities and resources, teacher empowerment, leadership, professional growth, and school climate and safety.
- Standards for systems of support must be available throughout a teacher’s career, from initial hiring through advancement, and must include a system whereby teachers identified as not meeting teaching standards are provided sufficient opportunity to improve their teaching. Systems of support include: ongoing, high-quality and relevant professional development; induction; mentoring/consulting; professional learning communities; lesson study; and coaching.