Two compelling events happened yesterday, each raising the possibility of a new paradigm for teacher accountability and each important in its own way.
First, Bill Gates published an op-ed in the Washington Post, “A fairer way to evaluate teachers.” Here is the heart of the piece:
This is one reason there is a backlash against standardized tests — in particular, using student test scores as the primary basis for making decisions about firing, promoting and compensating teachers. I’m all for accountability, but I understand teachers’ concerns and frustrations.
Even in subjects where the assessments have been validated, such as literacy and math, test scores don’t show a teacher areas in which they need to improve.
If we aren’t careful to build a system that provides feedback and that teachers trust, this opportunity to dramatically improve the U.S. education system will be wasted.
This comes from the man, through his foundation and reputation, who has been one of the most influential educational “reformers” in the past decade. And even he is cautioning us about the ways in which the current push to tie test scores to teacher accountability is wrong-headed. Finally.
On another front, the National Center for Literacy Education shared a new report, “Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works” on Capitol Hill. The main findings include:
- Literacy is not just the English teacher’s job anymore.
- Working together is working smarter.
- But schools aren’t structured to facilitate educators working together.
- Many of the building blocks for remodeling literacy learning are in place.
- Effective collaboration needs systemic support.
This morning, I participated with colleagues on the NCTE Task Force about computerized scoring and the PARC and SBAC assessments. We have a plan for a white paper, and hope to have it done next week.
So, is there maybe, just maybe, a bit of hope for a new paradigm in teacher accountability dawning on this fine spring day? With the complete lunacy of our current accountability system now exposed for the racket that it is, my hope is that we are turning a new page for students, parents, teachers, and our nation.
Update: April 5, 2013
In addition to correcting a grammar error, a colleague has also suggested that I add a link to Peter Smagorinsky’s op-ed from April 3rd, “Seeing teachers as technicians ignores what else they give students: confidence, moral support and inspiration.” Here is a brief segment from his post that highlights his main ideas for rethinking teacher evaluation:
In order for a teacher evaluation system to be legitimate, it should have a related set of qualities that go well beyond the simplistic approach imposed by the U.S. Department of Education. A credible evaluation system is valid (it has buy-in from multiple stakeholders’ perspectives, including the teachers for whom it is developed); it is reliable (similar results would be available from different assessors); it has utility for all participants regardless of the outcome of the evaluation (including those who are found deficient); it fosters the development of better teachers; it provides data that contribute to this development by attending to multiple facets of faculty performance; and it is conducted respectfully in terms of the magnitude of the job and the resources provided to undertake it.
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