The DC push to evaluate teachers

Jul 26, 2011 by

Jim Stergios– Remember Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, about a guy who goes and tries to fix a mistake made by the huge centralized bureaucracy? I can’t help it. That’s what I think of when I hear education policy experts talk about uniform, centralized teacher evaluations systems.

Jim Stergios

I know — I should be optimistic. Problem is, I’m a believer in setting high academic standards and insisting on broad-based accountability, but in order to enable success I think you have to give schools lots of flexibility (translation: control over money, people and school culture). Having the state dictate how principals should evaluate their teachers is gaining traction because of the federal Race to the Top incentives; and while it is spreading to many other states, I have to admit that I get antsy at conferences where economists opine about national frameworks for evaluating teachers. Yikes. Count me as a skeptic of such top-down models, even at the state level; and earlier this summer, the state board of education adopted just such a statewide framework for teacher evaluations.

Before looking into the Commonwealth’s new framework (teed up for Wednesday), I wanted to share some background on teacher evaluations in other parts of the country. When ed experts talk about evaluations, they often focus on three or four examples. Denver and Houston stand out for being among the first of a growing list of cities and states collecting student achievement growth data. Denver’s system, advanced with the support of Democratic Governor Hickenlooper, ties evaluations to its merit pay system and professional development. The evaluation system education policy folks are most focused on, though, is the IMPACT system in Washington DC developed during the tenure of former chancellor of the DC public schools Michelle Rhee.

Evaluations of any kind–education-related or not–have to be meaningful, objective and nuanced enough to capture important aspects of the job. They also have to lead to better attainment of key goals, in this case, raising academic performance and lowering dropout rates.

Notwithstanding a lot of carping (understandable given that it was developed without much union input), the IMPACT system is meaningful. As the noted right at the time of its announcement in the fall of 2009, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee

via The DC push to evaluate teachers – Rock The Schoolhouse’s blog – Boston.com.

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