Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Accountability "On the Line"

"Teacher Appreciation" featured phot...
"Teacher Appreciation" featured photo (Photo: Wikipedia)
by Kathleen Kardaras

Formative assessment, summative assessment, portfolio assessment, "authentic" assessment - and, yes, standardized assessment, are all used to determine whether students are learning.

Why, then, would teachers not argue for the same approaches to evaluating their own performance in the classroom?

Systemically, education administrators determine what students should know, when they should know it, and how they should be able to demonstrate learning on a single standardized test. However, they insist that students not be graded simply on such standardized assessments of learning.

So, why should administrators determine teacher performance on the results of a single, standardized measure? And why are teacher's union leaders not fighting for simply the same kind of evaluation for teachers that have been developed and deemed appropriate for students?

With current legislation, teacher performance in most states is evaluated using standardized measures of student performance. If students do well on the state's standardized tests, teachers will be retained.

If not, teachers can be fired and schools may suffer re-staffing, re-formulation, or closure. Currently, teacher performance is evaluated on little more than student outcomes on a single measure, not on the multiple measures of learning that are used in classrooms.

Given these realities, one might ask, "Why are teachers and their union representatives not arguing for the same measures used to evaluate student performance, to evaluate teacher performance?"

Given the diverse ability and preparation levels found in any current classroom, diverse evaluation measures are appropriate. Why not the same for teachers? Teacher preparation is also diverse, as is teacher ability. School environments offer diverse opportunities,and present diverse challenges in access to computers, science labs, math, and language instruction.

If "authentic" assessment is good for students, why should it not be used to evaluate teacher performance? Why shouldn't observation, portfolio, lesson-demonstration, growth from one marking period to another (measured in teacher-created rubrics), and self-evaluation, all contribute to re-hiring, promotion, and salary increase?

Such evaluation measures could include, for example, an analysis of the lesson plan content prepared for each marking period. Do the lessons contain sequential content? Has there been adequate preparation for the delivery of the content in each lesson? Have there been provisions in each lesson to reach every student in the way s/he learns best?

Can the lesson be extended, enhanced for those students who are ahead, and does it allow for review for those who need it? Does the teacher "deliver" or "dictate" the lesson, or involve the students interactively in questioning, and participating in ways that promote deeper understanding?

Another evaluation measure might be a teacher portfolio that demonstrates growth and development over a particular marking period, or in a term. This would suggest that each year's evaluation with the principal, or parent board, or both, would set performance objectives for each teacher, based on areas of challenge and opportunity.

Such diverse measures would certainly provide a fuller, richer evaluation of performance, and, would offer parents, administrators, and taxpayers a better understanding of the complexities of the profession.

Accountability should not be abhorrent to teachers or their unions, it should not rest on a single performance measure, and it should provide a full assessment of the capabilities of individuals whose profession it is to determine when positive learning outcomes have been achieved.

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