By Adjunct Faculty Member Dr. Sean Yisrael
CNN recently aired a news report on teacher evaluations. The report discussed how some states are flirting with the idea of making the evaluations/ratings teachers receive from their principals open to the public. Proponents of this idea believe a teacher’s evaluation/rating should be seen in the same light as any other data collected that’s made for public knowledge. They believe this kind of information about a teacher will help parents make better informed decisions about their child’s education, and assist with improving teacher quality and effectiveness.
The idea of displaying teachers’ evaluations/ratings is indicative of our society. We currently live in the age of “transparency” and “information”. As a society, we want to know any and everything about everybody – especially when it comes to the people who are working in the public sector. I understand how having such information about teachers could be useful in some regards, but I don’t think it will lead to improving teacher quality, nor will it necessarily lead to helping parents make better educational decisions. In fact, I see it having more of a negative impact than a positive one.
Displaying a teacher’s evaluation/rating will have an adverse effect on public education for two main reasons: first, it would discourage many individuals from entering the profession who could potentially be good teachers. Public school teachers are already leaving the profession at alarming rates. Some of the more glaring reasons causing the exodus can be attributed to burn-out, low morale, disruptive students, low pay, long hours, disengaged parents, high level of scrutiny, and unsupportive administrators. The teacher retention issues are compounded by the high barriers of entry into the profession, and the constant professional development required to remain there.
For example, teachers in most states not only have to earn a minimum of a bachelors degree from an accredited university, but they must also pass the PRAXIS Test, obtain a content area certification, and take a certain number of continuing education course in order to maintain their certification and teaching position. This cost a lot of time and money. These and other hurdles are just some of the reasons why teachers are leaving the profession, and others are choosing to go into other fields. Making teacher evaluations/ratings public will even make entering the profession less attractive.
Secondly, teacher evaluations are very subjective from school-to-school, district-to-district, and from state-to-state. There isn’t a uniform method for judging teacher quality and effectiveness. Many school districts, even those within the same state, have their own goals and focus points when it comes to teacher quality. Their teacher evaluation tools measure the qualities that match the goals they’ve set and the qualities they consider most important. An effective evaluation in one school may not mean the same for another school – even though the schools are located in the same district and/or state. This kind of inconsistency is misleading and negates the very purpose for displaying the information in the first place.
It seems that public school teachers are always under intense scrutiny. They’re often blamed for all of society’s ills and for everything wrong with public education. I view the idea of making teacher evaluations public as another bandage approach to fixing the problems within public education. It is nothing more than another attempt to marginalize the work of public school teachers, but this time, it’s disguised under the mask of being more transparent with the public. This is the same old song but played by a different tune. That’s my two cents, but what do you think?