There's an article in today's NY Times entitled, "States Try to Fix Quirks in Teacher Evaluations." I invite you to peruse the article - I'm not sure anyone would call them "quirks".
It opens with a scene probably familiar to all - a high-school LA teacher explaining what irony means. The principal was there to assess this veteran teacher's abilities. He says it was a "good lesson." BUT he had to give her a 1 (lowest score out of 1-5) because she didn't break the students into groups. He had seen her do it in the past but in her professional wisdom, she didn't feel the need to do it for this lesson. But the principal had to follow the rubric guidelines. He said:
“It’s not an accurate reflection of her as a teacher,” Mr. Ball said.
That's just one assessment of what sounds like a perfectly fine teacher. And yet, she got dinged. But it's not just the teachers:
Principals in rural Chester County, Tenn., are staying late and working weekends to complete reviews with more than 100 reference points. In Nashville, teachers are redesigning lessons to meet the myriad criteria — regardless of whether they think that is the best way to teach. And at Bearden High School in Knoxville, Tenn., physical education teachers are scrambling to incorporate math and writing into activities, since 50 percent of their evaluations will be based on standardized tests, not basketball victories.
And that last point is important because the SEA and the district just sent out an e-mail to high school teachers reminding them that:
Beginning in 2011-12 all teachers of tested subjects and grade levels will have student achievement data collected for the purpose of meeting the CBA requirements for student growth. It is essential to accurately link all students to the teacher(s) who provided their instruction so that teacher’s student growth ratings will be accurate. The designed process includes staff verification of student rosters for classes taught (Article XI Section G, p. 104).
After you return from mid-winter break, we will be asking you to review your first semester student rosters and confirm the students that received mathematics or reading instruction from you. You will be able to review these rosters and make any corrections you feel are necessary if you did not provide the instruction in one or both of these areas. Instructions for how to review and complete your roster verification will be provided when the rosters are available to review.
We targeted this data collection time to coincide with the end of the first semester. We recognize this may be an inconvenience, and want to thank you for your time and effort in completing this important task.
This is part of the CBA but it does point out the issues in assessment. Do science teachers teach math as part of their teaching? Should they submit their students' names or just math and LA teachers? It's a lot of time on the teachers' part as well as whoever has to collate all that information. (According to the note above, the teachers won't know how or who to review until they get their rosters. It seems like that doesn't give them the ability to do some of this work in advance of getting the rosters and will have to do it all at once.)
No matter how much we want to make sure who is doing good work in the classroom, there seems to be a lot of measuring to the nth degree and possible soul-searching on the part of those who do the assessing in order to be fair to a teacher.
And, is everyone good at everything? Do you do every part of your job well?
It's a brave new world and you have to wonder how many young people might reject this job because of the difficulties of understanding how they will be assessed for the work they do.