School districts use infrequent classroom observations to determine the success of the teacher, and this is a huge mistake. The Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation made a study which suggests teacher evaluations require multiple nuanced observations by trained evaluators. The results of this study strongly suggests teacher evaluation should be combined with other measures, such as student test scores and classroom surveys. Such an approach is to gather enough information to both evaluate teachers and to help them improve. A couple of things in this statement require further thought. Where do we get trained evaluators? Are they fellow classroom teachers? Are they teachers of the same discipline, academic background, and experience? Then there’s that student test score thing again. I’ve written quite extensively about test scores as a basis of evaluation and will not say much about that other than the use of student test scores is not a valid evaluative instrument of teacher success. I have no idea what is meant by “classroom surveys.” Who creates them? Who administrates them? Who compiles and interprets the data from such surveys? What additional burden does such a survey place on the school system?
I whole-heartedly agree with Tom Kane, deputy director of the Education Program Of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation when he says, “when high-stakes decisions [regarding teacher evaluations] are being made, school districts should allow for more than one observation.” To that end, the core of the study, led by Tom Kane, was a two-year collection of digital videos of more than 13,000 lessons in classrooms of teachers. The teachers in the study volunteered. Back in the 1980s I was fortunate enough to be part of a pilot project conducted by the University of South Florida (Tampa) that used videos, tape recordings, and direct observation of teachers in an effort to identify excellent teacher behaviors. Feedback was a crucial part of this program. It must be a significant aspect of any evaluative procedures. How else is a teacher to improve if he or she doesn’t know what the expectations are?
Evaluation of potential success as a teacher should begin early in the educational training career of the potential teacher. Colleges and universities that offer teacher education programs should do a psychological profile of potential candidates for teaching. Second, practice lessons, videos of teaching excellence, classroom observations should be a part of the experience at the college-training level. Third, a positive spin needs to be put on evaluation. Remove the emphasis on potential firing. Place the emphasis on helping a teacher be a successful classroom learning manager.