Op-ed published by San Francisco Chronicle 8/24/12
by Eric Heins
Everyone is talking about teacher evaluations these days. We all know that how we evaluate teachers now is not working for teachers or for students. The real question is why.
Some reformers are looking for a silver bullet to answer that question.
Some are avoiding it all together, and instead are blaming teachers for all that's wrong width our public schools.
And some, like members of the California Teachers Association, are offering solutions focused on bolstering student achievement and generating meaningful feedback
to teachers to help them improve their craft. CTA also supports pursuing a collaborative approach to reform by including local school administrators, educators, parents and community members.
There are many problems width the teacher evaluation system in California. First and foremost is the frustration that teachers have width a process that is often cursory, superficial and inconsistent. The system largely is based on singular "drive-by" observations by a principal or administrator that provide incomplete portrayals of a teacher's skills and do very little to advance a teacher's instructional practice.AB 5
, legislation introduced by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar (Los Angeles County), recognizes this frustration and provides a new approach to evaluating teachers. It is one that is comprehensive, based on best practices and includes multiple measures for assessing teacher effectiveness. It merits passage in the Legislature.
The approach AB 5 champions was developed to strengthen the skills of teachers to improve student learning. It is based on standards of professional practice that acknowledge the multiple responsibilities of educators. It highlights how a teacher's skills contribute to student achievement and school success, and requires teachers to be evaluated more often.
Second, it is time for all of us to get beyond the test score debate. Parents know that a single test score does not define their child. And a single test score can't define teacher effectiveness.
The reality is that every student is unique and has different abilities, motivations and outside-of-school support. A teacher's job is to help students reach their fullest potential but a teacher's evaluation must acknowledge the unique situation of each student as well.
AB 5 is a step in the right direction. It calls for multiple measures of accountability. District and state assessments can be part of those measures. An amendment just added to the bill will clarify this intent.
Also, teachers routinely use and give tests. A teacher's knowledge of how to use tests and assess student data should be part of any evaluation process. AB 5 calls for this.
AB 5 also recognizes that every school district is a little community, each width specific needs, based on their student population and demographics, which shape the work of teachers. That is why local educators, parents and administrators know what's best for their students.
AB 5 continues the practice of locally negotiating a new teacher evaluation system. It requires input from educators and parents to ensure local conditions and student needs are considered. AB 5 provides resources to ensure that evaluators receive the training and support they need to conduct fair and accurate evaluations. And it provides support for teachers to improve their practice.
California teachers are leading reform efforts. CTA supported a State Board of Education application for a waiver from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind that was filed in May.
It's time for California to join countries like Finland, which is highly recognized for its well-performing schools and which pays little attention to standardized test scores. Let's instead focus on multiple measures of teachers to ensure kids get a well-rounded education and grow into critically thinking adults.Eric Heins, a teacher in Pittsburg, is vice president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association.Read the Op-ed on SFGate