Tag Archives: evaluation

Slash and burn teacher evaluation in D.C.

Late last week, D.C.’s tough-as-nails Superintendent Michelle Rhee announced that her district would fire 241 teachers, including 165 who received poor ratings under a new evaluation system put in place this year. The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog has an interesting analysis of this new evaluation system (known as IMPACT), and finds it comes up way short — doing a disservice to all teachers in the system:

Under IMPACT, all teachers are supposed to receive five 30-minute classroom observations during the school year, three by a school administrator and two by an outside “master educator” with a background in the instructor’s subject.

They are scored against a “teaching and learning framework” with 22 different measures in nine categories. Among the criteria are classroom presence, time management, clarity in presenting the objectives of a lesson and ensuring that students across all levels of learning ability understand the material.

A number of teachers never got the full five evaluations, apparently because a number of master teachers hired to do the jobs quit, according to sources in the school system.

But even if they all were, let’s look closely at this: In 30 minutes, a teacher is supposed to demonstrate all 22 different teaching elements. What teacher demonstrates 22 teaching elements — some of which are not particularly related — in 30 minutes? Suppose a teacher takes 30 minutes to introduce new material and doesn’t have time to show. … Oh well. Bad evaluation.

There’s clearly room for improving teacher evaluations (how about doing them regularly, for starters!) so that school districts can have a better idea of which teachers are effective and which are not; so that ineffective teachers can be coached to improve their practice or counseled out of the profession; and so that institutions that train new teachers have some feedback of where they need to focus more effort. But IMPACT doesn’t seem to be the answer.

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Why test scores aren’t valid for teacher evaluation

From Diane Ravitch’s Bridging Differences blog on Education Week — the best explanation I’ve read yet for why it’s not valid to use student test scores in teacher evaluation:

I received an email from Dr. Harry Frank, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who has written textbooks about testing and measurement. Dr. Frank wrote that the first principle for valid assessment is that “no assessment can be used at the same time for both counseling and for administrative decisions (retention, increment, tenure, promotion). … All this does is promote cheating and teaching to the exam. … This principle is so basic that it’s often covered in the very first chapter of introductory texts on workplace performance evaluation.” [The full text of Dr. Frank’s email is posted on my Web site, www.dianeravitch.com, in a section called “comments.”] I asked Dr. Frank to explain the word “counseling,” and he said that this meant “feedback on performance for purposes of skills development,” what we might think of as the diagnostic use of an assessment. Dr. Frank also added: “Assessments should be a counseling resource, not a source of extrinsic motivation, i.e., rewards and punishments for teachers, administrators, and school districts.”

Put simply, tests and assessments should inform teachers about student progress and their own teaching, i.e., what can be learned from the test results. But it is inappropriate to use the same test results to hand out bonuses and punishments, promotions and tenure.