Current Teacher Evaluation Strategies Are Failing Miserably


It's time to reconsider how we measure teacher success.

Most people agree: teachers need to be evaluated regularly in order to ensure that students are learning properly. However, what if the current evaluation system is actually more of a problem than a solution?

Rick Hess, scholar of education policy, makes the case that teacher evaluation systems are not solving any problems in our education system, but are only making teachers' jobs harder. Not only that, but the evaluation systems are not properly measuring how effective teachers are in their classrooms.

In 2009, The New Teacher Project sparked a wave of reform when it reported that less than 1% of teachers were rated unsatisfactory even in school systems with abysmal student outcomes.

Clearly something is very wrong in a system where students are failing, yet teacher ratings are still on the high side. In response to this, many states adopted new evaluation systems designed to combat this disparity. But how has that affected things?

Good idea, but a case study in how well-intentioned reforms can turn into clumsy mandates. Principals in Nevada, for example, now estimate they spend 150 hours – or 19 work days a year – filling out required paperwork that simply rehashes what they'd already observed in classrooms, recorded on paper, and discussed with teachers.

How did this change affect teacher evaluations? Only 1-2% now rate unsatisfactory. Clearly, the changes have not produced the desired outcomes, but what can we do to improve our schools' performance? Hess has a few ideas.

Teachers absolutely need to be evaluated more rigorously. The way to do this, though, is not by imposing paper burdens. It's by giving school leaders more authority, leeway, and autonomy, and then holding them responsible for what they do with it.

Our kids deserve the best we can offer them. That inevitably means more rigorous teacher evaluations and more effective means of holding them accountable for good results. Small changes like more autonomy and authority at the local level may be effective in doing that.

What do you think? How can we achieve better results in schools?