I like this blog post by Michael Petrilli at EDUCATIONnext focused on high-stakes teacher evaluation. In it, he wonders what future scholars will say about it when they review the history of this reform movement.
. . .future historians are far likelier to wonder about the motivation behind the evaluation obsession. Was this a policy designed to identify, and remove, America’s least effective teachers? Or was it a kinder-and-gentler effort to provide critical feedback to instructors so they could improve their craft?
Much of his post is about our state because of the recent letter to OSPI from the federal education department placing the state on "high risk status" of losing the NCLB waiver due to what they see as inadequacies in our evaluation model. Those perceived inadequacies in our model are what I believe allow us to place a focus on teacher growth and not removal of poor teachers. When high-stake assessments are used in the evaluation process and potentially in compensation models maintaining that growth focus becomes more difficult.
Petrilli also argues that there is little likelihood in our state that any mandated change will result in significant change to evaluation results and possible removal of teachers.
. . . Even if the Evergreen State develops a well-designed system, will principals there be willing to give low marks to ineffective teachers? And will school leaders be able to push those instructors out of the classroom?
Doubtful. Washington’s teacher-tenure protections will remain in place, as will collective bargaining agreements, both of which guarantee extensive “due process” rights. And regardless of Arne Duncan’s exhortations, there’s no way that labor-friendly Washington is going to make it significantly easier to fire bad teachers (at least those who have already earned tenure).
Here’s a prediction: Whatever Olympia policymakers come up with, most teachers will continue to receive positive ratings and nearly all will cling to their jobs. Why? Why not. If you’re a school principal, why give a teacher a bad rating if you know you still can’t remove her from the classroom?
In the short term we will maintain our focus on teacher growth while we observe who will have the most leverage in the next legislative session, the reformers wanting high-stakes assessment use or those advocating for a growth model that doesn't require the use of those same assessments. I believe that there is a need for and a place for using all assessment data in public education accountability. I do not, however, believe that the results of one assessment should have a significant influence on the overall evaluation of a teacher. That data could and should influence what happens at the classroom, school, and system level and should be used to hold schools and school systems accountable for achievement of ALL students. I am open, however, to looking at a growth model and/or some form of support/intervention when there is a pattern over time in a classroom of student achievement below the norm for that grade level or department.
What are your thoughts about Petrilli's prediction?