Jun 23 2010

A teacher’s conditions on assessing her teaching

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 8:32 am

Is U.S. Edu-Rhetoric a Pipe Dream? A Teacher Wants to Know

Michele Kerr, a graduate of Stanford’s teacher education program and a guest author at NAS.org, has an admirable op-ed in the Washington Post today. In her piece, “The Right Way to Assess Teachers’ Performance,” she notes the backlash from teachers over being tested by student performance, as required by Obama’s Race to the Top program. She says she, and probably most teachers, would be willing to be evaluated based on students’ test scores, provided a few conditions are met. “Let’s negotiate,” she says.

Kerr proposes that:

1. Teachers be assessed based on only those students with 90 percent or higher attendance.
2. Teachers be allowed to remove disruptive students from their classroom on a day-to-day basis.
3. Students who don’t achieve “basic” proficiency in a state test be prohibited from moving forward to the next class in the progression.
4. Teachers be assessed on student improvement, not an absolute standard—the so-called value-added assessment.

“Accepting these reasonable conditions might reveal that common rhetorical goals for education (everyone goes to college, algebra for eighth-graders) are, to put it bluntly, impossible,” she asserts. “So we’ll either continue the status quo at a stalemate or the states will make the tests so easy that the standards are meaningless.”

I can’t disagree with the conditions the teacher wants to put on assessing her teaching performance. The problem, of course, is that in many urban school districts, this would mean that teachers would be getting assessed based on the performance of only about half of the students.

Therein lies the problem.  We have tolerated a huge decline in expectations, both in academic performance and behavior at school, while clinging to politically correct rhetoric.  We are now in a situation where any imaginable solution is going to be very painful. 

But not as painful as doing nothing, or doing something that is merely cosmetic.