The AFT conference that I just attended had a pre-conference session about “Negotiating Teacher Development and Evaluation.” I think it’s safe to say that teacher evaluation is a pretty hot topic these days. Over the course of 3 days I heard a fair amount on the topic. There was even a ratification of the Baltimore Teacher’s contract on Wednesday that is actually rather ground-breaking. Part of it was nudged on by RTTT (Race to the Top) dollars. The verdict is still out on whether or not you were lucky to get those dollars or whether you were lucky that you didn’t. But anyway… teacher evaluation is the million dollar question.
After milling the topic over in my head for the past few days, I decided that I’d ask my students what they thought. Before I asked my main question, I asked them “How do you determine whether someone is a good student or not?”
The kinds of answers I got were interesting. What was important to them? How much a student improved. Attendance. Attitude. Effort. How much work they do. When I asked them how standardized tests played into this question they were quite certain that those tests weren’t a true indicator of a good student. They argued that there are a lot of students who don’t test well but do homework and work hard.
After asking what a makes a good student, I ventured into the category of what makes a good teacher. Both of the classes I asked had the same first answer. A teacher that can answer their questions. They want someone who knows their content. They want someone who can take the complicated stuff in a textbook and help them translate it so they can understand. They like small classes where they can interact with each other and the teacher. They like a teacher that has control of the classroom and they can learn in an environment that is free of chaos. They want a teacher that helps them to learn.
I also asked if they were a teacher, would they want their performance based solely on students’ test scores? Absolutely not. They don’t want to be judged on those tests themselves.
The discussion didn’t last that long. But I thought it was interesting that the things they said were important in good students and good teachers are things that are not easily measurable.
I realize that teacher evaluation is a topic that isn’t going away any time soon. The lingo is changing from Highly Qualified Teacher to Highly Effective Teacher. But really… How do you measure the effectiveness of someone? It’s highly subjective. And as my session indicated, there needs to be multiple measures. But if you really want to get to the bottom of it quickly… Just as the kids.