I finally had the chance to read Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed in the New York Times about American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten: specifically, about her proposal to create more rigorous teacher evaluations and ways to help teachers improve, as well as a more efficient disciplinary process for teachers accused of misconduct.
In a speech today (which you can watch for yourself in the video below), the AFT president said that while it was important to protect teachers from false allegations, “too often due process can become glacial process.”
Two people in the Oakland teachers union e-mail group (Note: Most Oakland teachers belong to the NEA, not the AFT) have already called for Weingarten’s recall for promoting such policy changes. But her prepared remarks hardly struck me as extreme. What she says about evaluations doesn’t seem far off from what some of you have described in our discussions:
Our system of evaluating teachers has never been adequate. For too long and too often, teacher evaluation—in both design and implementation—has failed to achieve what must be our goal: continuously improving and informing teaching so as to better educate all students.
Right now, this is how teachers are commonly evaluated: An administrator sits in the back of the classroom for a few minutes, a few times in the first few years of teaching. The teacher then receives a “rating” at the end of the school year.
That’s like a football team watching game tape once the season is over.
Let’s think about that game tape for a minute. Coaches and players view it throughout the season and in preparation for every game. Why? To deconstruct and understand what’s working and what isn’t—so that necessary changes can be made. The goal is constant improvement and, of course, winning.
We need to put the same time and effort into developing and evaluating teachers. And we need to ensure that the women and men who teach our children are participants in every stage of the process. That’s what we mean when we say do these things “with us, not to us. …
We propose rigorous reviews by trained expert and peer evaluators and principals, based on professional teaching standards, best practices and student achievement. The goal is to lift whole schools and systems: to help promising teachers improve, to enable good teachers to become great, and to identify those teachers who shouldn’t be in the classroom at all….
What do you think about her ideas, such as basic professional teaching standards for each state and using student performance (test scores) as one measure of teacher effectiveness?