I read a few weeks back in our local newspaper Michigan legislature passed a bill that poses teacher evaluation with student performance, specifically stating; 25 percent to 40% of the teacher evaluation will be based on student test scores. On the surface this may appear to be a legitimate form of evaluating teachers. It is not.
While state and district tests may be an objective means to evaluate student performance, evaluating teachers based on student test scores is not. To put this into perspective, I golfed with a dentist and a mechanic this past summer and the subject of teacher evaluation came up. I asked the dentist if he thought his performance as a dentist should be based on the performance of his patients. If his patients failed to brush or floss or ate candy, smoked, and chewed tobacco letting their teeth decay should he be held accountable. He told me he would not want the American Dental Association to evaluate his practice based on his patient’s behavior. The mechanic told me he would not want his evaluation based on how drivers drive or maintain their cars. Evaluating the dentist based on the patients’ actions, and the mechanic based on the drivers’ actions seems absurd, yet that is exactly how teachers are evaluated.
The reason teacher evaluation is so difficult is based on subjective circumstances. Let’s be honest here, students in schools from affluent areas consistently have higher test scores than students from inner city underprivileged, or low economic areas. Yet teachers in both areas are evaluated on the same criteria. To shed further light on the absurdity of evaluating teachers based on student test scores, some teachers who scored poorly on evaluations were displaced from a low performing school and placed in high performing school. These teachers for some miraculous reason (could it be the students?) are performing so much better.
When it comes to evaluating teachers there is no easy answer. The whole purpose of teaching is to impart knowledge. When teachers are able to communicate this to students, learning takes place. The state has amended the law for teacher evaluation from a one year to a three year period. The evaluation of teachers over a three year period is an improvement. But teachers who work in buildings where there is a history of low performance should have the opportunity to work in buildings where students consistently perform better. If the test scores slide down, then it may be safe to assume the teacher may not be proficient in the art of teaching or in the subject matter or grade level being taught. This would be a fairer assessment of the teacher’s value.