How should we evaluate teachers? When I was in college and graduate schools, I received a form to evaluate my professors. When I did adjunct work in different schools of higher education, I would pass these forms out to my scholars. I found it an adequate and fair way to both evaluate my professors and to be evaluated. What I find offensive in the current trend to evaluate teachers is to use a test that teachers have neither created nor have input in their creation. These are arbitrary tests made by some firm not associated with my school or in communication with me.
Which teacher is responsible for a scholar's success on any given test? The current teacher or a teacher from last year or further back? Has a scholar arrived in my class ill prepared to do the work in my class and therefore incapable of doing any test? I get scholars in my class from other schools, cities, states, countries. They are in my class because of their age more than any other criteria, not because of their language skills. In a very short period of time I have my scholars and I am going to be rewarded or punished because of the work or lack of it by others? Then how about the scholar who has come well prepared and I get credit. Talk about a crap shoot.
Teaching is a communal effort. Each scholar encounters more than one teacher each day and on some days perhaps sees as many as six teachers, each with a different teaching style and purpose. How do we know the skills learned in one class aren't transferred into another? Which teacher is rewarded? How do we determine the teacher responsible for success or failure? Maybe we should reconsider those forms of the past where scholars made evaluations of their teachers. Patterns will emerge as we are able to sift through these evaluations. Top and bottom evaluations will reveal much as will correlations between grade and comment. In the end, however, I always found these evaluations honest and useful.
The current push to use tests made by certain companies that may not be valid or reflective of the classes being taught makes no sense. The test makers do not provide guides to what is on the test so we can not just teach to the test but to be sure to include instruction on this material. When I teach a unit, the scholars know what material will be on the test. Now if I make a test that assesses stuff I didn't cover in class, they will scream and holler about how unfair this is. We have all been there in our school days. The same holds true for these tests that are made from sources outside our school district or state and are used to evaluate our performance, especially when we are not aware of the concept, content, or any aspect of the test.
When I first started teaching, I was in a department of six teachers. At the beginning of each semester we devised the instrument of evaluation we would use at the end of the semester. In addition, each teacher had to create a part of the test that would be for their class only. It allowed for uniformity so if scholars had to change a schedule instruction and content was not lost. We were interchangeable parts a la Eli Whitney. It worked beautifully. We knew what to teach, we could customize and concentrate on our strengths, and have an instrument of evaluation of our scholars and of ourselves. It made for a healthy collegial English department in which we helped each other and did not compete with each other. Our common goal was the success of our scholars and this method of evaluation made us better teachers. But this was thirty five years ago and we have moved far from this pedagogical ideal world to a world of ignorance about education and I'm very sad to see that it comes from our own inept Federal Government of both parties. This is not a sickness of just one political party it is a malady shared by both.
Currently this nation is on a witch hunt to find fault with their circumstances. Election day will alleviate some of that pain, but in the meantime and after the elections teachers will continue to be targets of blame.