If you've followed the news during the recent Chicago teachers' strike, you know that teachers have voiced concerns about the key issue of teacher evaluation. The Education Week article "Straight Up Conversation: Teacher Eval Guru Charlotte Danielson" by Rick Hess states, "There's been a heavy emphasis of late on teacher evaluation, with states and districts making it a pillar of their efforts to rethink tenure, pay, and professional norms. States and districts have adopted systems that rely heavily on observational evaluation to complement or stand in for value-added metrics."
A survey of teacher evaluation systems in 14 large U.S. school districts, the results of which the New Teacher Project shared in the widely read 2009 report The Widget Effect, concluded that 98 percent of teachers were evaluated as "satisfactory." Based on such findings, many have characterized the old evaluation checklist system as somewhat flawed.
Several states have begun rethinking their teacher evaluation systems. These revised evaluation systems seem to have moved from using checklists and the approach developed by Madeline Hunter to an approach with multitiered models, such as Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching. The systems, which identify what good teaching looks like, are geared toward subject-area competency as well as teacher effectiveness. Many of these models incorporate professional development as a key component for continual growth for all teachers and are designed to have teachers engaged in their own learning.
If we are serious about developing highly qualified teachers, we need to recognize that high-quality professional development and teacher evaluation can be symbiotic—that is, depending on each other to endure and thrive—and therefore mutually beneficial.
Findings presented in the 2010 report The Status of Professional Development in the United States, by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, show that "sustained and intensive professional development for teachers is related to student achievement and gains."
Thus, changes in evaluation systems should move from either being a punitive "gotcha" or deeming everyone "OK" to ones that are designed to help teachers improve their craft and effectiveness through collaboration; self-reflection; and sustained, high-quality professional development.
Based on the knowledge about human growth, development, and adult learning we've acquired in the last decade, we know that when teachers continue to learn and grow through professional development, so do their students. Let's increase resources for teacher learning and revolutionize the way we approach teacher evaluation.
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