Incomprehensible, Again


Last week’s “>observed in frustration, “it’s not about the adults; it’s about the children….Our schools are not an employment program.”

The argument that the teaching profession is unique among careers in defying our capacity to fairly and systematically evaluate its practitioners is losing its believability. We can figure out who is a good teacher and who isn’t.

Nevertheless, Friday’s New York Times offered“> study (published in early January reporting on over 3,000 teachers and three years of study from across the country).

The Gates Foundation study recommended that a combination of student test scores (one half to one third of the evaluation metrics), “well-crafted observations” of classroom teaching (preferably with two observers) and even student surveys of teacher quality should be combined in a teacher’s evaluation. That formula was the most predictive of teacher quality as well as offering teachers the feedback they need to improve their performance. As the leader of the project, Harvard Professor Tom Kane noted, “this is not about accountability, it’s about providing the feedback every professional needs to strive towards excellence.”

Mayor Bloomberg was asking for 20% of the evaluation process to be comprised of students’ growth on state test scores (considerably less than the Gates’ recommended 33% minimum), another 20% based on local measures that the union would negotiate, and 60% based on classroom observations—those indices were unacceptable to the union.

It is clear that a reckoning is near when the leadership of teachers’ unions will discern where the world is moving and see that standing in the way of change isn’t going to continue to work; the price they will pay will simply be too burdensome. 

Hopefully, it will happen sooner rather than later and the students won’t continue to pay the price of their intransigence.

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