"I Think We All Love Teachers"



As I read an article by Angela Minnici and Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt in Education Week, "Making Teacher Evaluation a Launch Pad for Growth", I could not help but be mesmerized when I got to this sentence. It was during one of the 2012 US Presidential debates that moderator Bob Schieffer closed with this quite memorable sentence. This sentence is second only to the most tweeted phrase in that debate, "Fewer Horses and Bayonets":
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Teachers are indeed important factors in the success of schools. With the dependence of learning outcomes on teacher effectiveness, push for ratings and evaluations of teachers are on the rise. Schools are about to be treated like factories in which workers are provided incentives such as bonuses supposedly to enhance their performance. If we do "love our teachers", an evaluation of their performance must first and foremost be sincere in its true purpose. Useful evaluations must help teachers improve. The evaluation must be fair. It must be informative. It must be helpful to be meaningful. For these reasons, teacher evaluations require careful and thoughtful planning and studies. Using the wrong indicators or measures, and not involving the teachers in the process of constructing evaluation systems is definitely a step in the wrong direction. Angela Minnici and Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt wrote in their Education Week article:
Improving professional-learning opportunities for teachers, while better than the status quo, is necessary but insufficient. New-teacher induction, stronger leadership, better pay, safe and supportive working conditions, more relevant preparation programs, opportunities to lead new projects and initiatives away from the classroom, and more manageable workloads are needed to attract talented people to teaching. Anything less will continue to deprofessionalize teaching.
Indeed, the list of things that need to be done to improve teaching appears long. But there is really no short cut. Drawing a fair and helpful teaching evaluation system is already a formidable task. And on this specific endeavor, cutting corners may do more harm than good. The National Comprehensive  Center for Teacher Quality provides an example of an evaluation system that is currently implemented experimentally in the District of Columbia. It is called IMPACT. This evaluation system has been recently reviewed by experts (The review can be downloaded from here).

The following is a brief description of IMPACT (copied from the District of Columbia Public Schools Website):


How Does IMPACT Work?

IMPACT ratings for teachers are based on the following:
  1. Student Achievement – We believe that a teacher’s most important responsibility is to ensure that her or his students learn and grow. This is why we hold educators accountable for the growth their students make on our state assessment, the DC CAS, or on other assessments if they don’t teach a DC CAS grade or subject.
  2.  
  1. Instructional Expertise – This is assessed through five observations – four formal and one informal – each year. Three observations are conducted by teachers’ administrators and two are conducted by independent, expert practitioners called master educators. Feedback and guidance for growth are provided in post-observation conferences and written reports.
  2.  
  1. Collaboration – Education is very much a team effort, which is why IMPACT also measures the extent to which educators work together on behalf of students.
  2.  
  1. Professionalism – Teachers are also held accountable for key professional requirements, including following all school policies and procedures, and interacting with colleagues, students, families, and community members in a respectful manner.


___________________________________________________________________________________

The first item alone, "student achievement", may look simple, but these are not just the scores of students in a standardized exam. This measure does take into account scores in the District of Columbia's Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS), but the scores of students are corrected so that the effects of a student's background and prior skills are removed. This involves an elaborate statistical modeling that then extracts the impact of the teacher on the student's performance. Part of "Student Achievement" is Teacher Assessed Student Achievement Data. This measurement allows the teacher to set his or her own goals for a class. Although designed by the teachers themselves, these must align to content standards and must be approved by the school administration. The process in a way ensures that the teachers themselves are very much aware of what the goals are. This is an important ingredient for any evaluation to be useful. There should be no surprises in what metrics are used. Indicators can not be defined after the time period during which such measures are made. Teachers need to know before a school year how they are going to be evaluated at the end. IMPACT also demonstrates how teachers become active participants in designing the evaluation systems. And this is just one of the four items. Evaluation is indeed a lot of work.

On the other hand, what DepEd has done with its new Performance Based Bonus scheme for teachers is an excellent example of what not to do. (Please read a previous post in this blog, "Performance Based Bonus: Measuring Schools") I reiterate the paragraph I quoted above to drive hopefully a very important point:
Improving professional-learning opportunities for teachers, while better than the status quo, is necessary but insufficient. New-teacher induction, stronger leadership, better pay, safe and supportive working conditions, more relevant preparation programs, opportunities to lead new projects and initiatives away from the classroom, and more manageable workloads are needed to attract talented people to teaching. Anything less will continue to deprofessionalize teaching.
"I Think We All Love Teachers", and the proof lies in what we actually do. Do the public school teachers in the Philippines feel loved? The following photos tell the story:


Photos downloaded from ACT Philippines Facebook page








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