The value of teacher evaluations

As it comes to the end of the semester, and the (foreseeable) end of my educational career, I thought I would take a look at one of the tools that it often used in the academic world.

Teacher performance evaluations/assessments are used across the schooling spectrum as a tool to determine whether or not their instruction is successful in communicating their subject matter. There has been many controversies over how an assessment should be completed, and how well it can actually calculate the value of a teacher.

A little history

The teacher assessment has been a part of the educational system since the mid-1800s, according to the book “Effective Supervision,” by Robert J. Marzano, Tony Frontier and David Livingston.

Soon, appraisals were being created using two different streams of measurement: Frederick Taylor’s scientific management and John Dewey’s educational theory of pragmatism. Taylor’s scientific theory tended to give way to more numerical and measurable data, and therefore was used to shape the earliest versions of teacher assessments in the early 1900s.

The tool continued to develop throughout time, moving more into individual measurements of a specific teacher to clinical supervision, the Hunter Model, reflective models, and the list goes on in terms of what models administrations have used to create a teacher performance evaluation system.

The controversy of teacher evaluations

In 2013, PBS published a comprehensive overview of recent controversies that have surrounded the use of performance evaluations in the school systems. Journalists Simone Pathe and Jaywon Choe wrote, “Why is it so hard to determine what makes a good teacher? The answer is both complicated and polarizing. In recent education reform history, judging teacher evaluations has become as much an issue as how to evaluate student achievement.”

Teacher and blogger for The Huffington Post’s Education section Shanna Peeples wrote that evaluations are as much testing the teacher on their performance as it is evaluating, and “Where, what, and who you teach will show similar patterns of “successful” and “failing” schools and teachers across your district.”

What the country is doing about the debate

And the concerns have increasingly been heard by school districts and different levels of government.

A school district in Oregon recently changed their pay scale so that it wasn’t solely performance based. The change was made after funding from The Chalkboard Project had depleted in the school district.

Senate Bill 364 was introduced to Congress in the 2015-2016 session. A major part of the bill would be to decrease the scale a teacher’s performance would be based on their students’ success.

 

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