Sunday, March 7, 2010

Measuring Teacher Effectivness: Can It Be Done?

What about teacher tenure? What about merit pay? Should tenure or the alternate option of merit pay to replace tenure be tied to test scores? As the national debate unwinds about these controversial issues, we as educators need to stay informed.

When a post was made to the English Companion Ning, the posting generated a volumnious number of replies. The title of the blog, If We Can Put a Man on the Moon, We Can Certainly Measure Teacher Effectiveness, is controversial enough, and already 15 pages of comments have been left. By the time you check, more pages of comments are likely to have been added.

The English Companion Ning is read by over 12,000 English teachers, and surely other professional education nings and blogs are already generating a plethora of commentary on the topic of measuring teacher effectiveness. Just check the If We Can Put a Man on the Moon... and the comments posted to get a feel of some of the response in one community of educators.

This ning, The English Companion, is one of the most popular in the K-12 setting and is read by more than just English and language arts teachers. The discussion on the ning was started by Alan Sitomer, a former California teacher of the year and an author of young adult literature.

By the way, those interested in the teaching of literature and language arts skills, should check out the English Companion Ning regularly; it is a storehouse of information, and why not also join the ning to become part of the conversation.

In the meantime, post your comments on this blog regarding the discussion that has evolved based on Sitomer's blog and the whole controversy of a method to measure teacher effectiveness. Can it be done? Is tenure the answer? Is merit pay a better answer? What about using test scores to measure teacher effectiveness? If not test scores, then what else? Check out the discussion at, If We Can Put a Man on the Moon..., as well as Sitomer's What I Believe Measuring Teacher Effectivess is About. He has posted on the main English Companion Ning as well as within his own Page on the English Companion Ning; thus, you will see two forms of commentary in each place.


Meggan said...

This is such a touchy subject for me because I usually get very emotional when I talk I will do my best to remain rational and objective :)

I agree that something needs to be done and that all teachers need to be evaluated in some different way, because let's face it, what we (as an educational system, not just teachers) are doing now is not working to the fullest. I know there has been talk about linking teacher performance to students' test scores, and I know many teachers despise that notion. I firmly believe that teachers completely impact how well students will do on assessments, because I have seen it happen. I don't know if it's because of my youth or the fact that I've only been teaching for 5 years but I am just tired of hearing teachers and other putting all the blame on the kids and how they're so unmotivated these days, etc. When are some of us going to take responsibility? Parents too! It's not just the kids, and since we assess them all the time with testing, why can't teachers be "measured" in some way, shape or form?

Amy R. said...

Would it be appropriate or even possible to fairly measure teacher effectiveness by asking the students to evaluate their teachers? I think most grade school children know a good teacher when they see (or learn) from one. Some factors that should be taken into account are:
1. Creative lesson plans
2. Keeping students' interests
3. Organization and classroom management skills
4. Ability to teach new material
5. Effective use of paraprofessionals or other support staff in the school.
6. Relevance and Appropriateness of lessons.

Some teachers may let students give an informal evaluation at the end of the year, but I'm not sure if anyone would use these responses to measure teacher effectiveness.

Meggan said...

Amy, what you suggest is a great idea. I find it interesting that when it's time to select candidates for "Teacher of the Year" that they ask fellow teachers to vote for one another. I have always wondered why they don't have students vote? Students will be honest too, and they are the ones in the classroom with teachers for the longest periods of time! How can I nominate a teachers if I've never sat in his/her classroom?

Student feedback is critical and essential because of the honesty students are willing to give. I don't think it's the only way to measure teacher effectiveness, but there's nothing wrong with it. I ask my students all the time for feedback on lessons. Usually I will know if I've done a really good lesson because the kids will automatically say things like, "This is cool. We should do more things like this." Thanks for bringing this up Amy.

Mary Beth Cadieux said...

Meggan put it very smartly when she said this is a "very emotional" issue. I too am emotional about this issue because tenure was one of my biggest draws to the career of education. I come from an insurance background and was employed when the bottom fell out of the market. I talked to over 100 people a day scared for their life savings, retirements and livelihood. I also was the first hand witness to numerous hard working people in the 40s or 50s that were laid off. Many of these people found it extremely hard (if not impossible) to get a new job at their age, because they were "too expensive". I think teaching is a hard job and if tenure helps protects the teachers, it is a good thing. As a woman, tenure is also important because I plan on having children. In the business world if you miss more than the allotted 6 weeks for the birth, there is a great likelihood of your job being in jeopardy. It is clear that I am 100% in favor on teacher tenure and pensions.
With that being said, I think teachers need to be evaluated in smarter ways. The only issue is time. Ideally a portfolio would be a great solution. Teachers could show lesson plans, student work and differentiation methods. But then who would evaluate these and how often would they be evaluated? I’ve seen a pilot of the upcoming evaluation for teachers in CT and I cannot help but to be nervous. Having my evaluation linked to parent and student feedback, does not make me feel settled. What if a student is a continual behavior issue? What if the parent does not have a good view on the school as a whole? In my school we have an issue with sexism. More specifically, some of my students do not like being taught by a teacher that is female. (I work at a voc school where a large population of the staff is male?) I am just nervous that these opinions might not be the more accurate description of what occurs in my class. I agree that teacher evaluations need to be changed; however, I am not sure I think this is the optimal way.

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