In a recent article, Governor Cuomo has established a teacher evolution system for New York Public School. The new initiative is met with opposition from the teachers union along with many teachers because it includes student achievement as a measure of success. The most effective way to ensure the success of teacher evaluations is to have students participate in pre and post testing.
According to the article, under the new law, the length of time it will take to earn tenure will be lengthened from three to four years. To gain tenure, a teacher must rate “effective” (based on classroom observations and test-based measures) for three of those years.
For a probationary teacher, effectiveness should mean having a track record of student achievement gains and classroom observations better than the average draft pick (the typical first-year teacher in a district).
The second step will be to reinvent the classroom observation. Children will not succeed until all teachers — both tenured and untenured — adjust what and how they teach. But that requires adults to change their behavior, and we must not underestimate how difficult that will be.
Although the use of test scores has received all the attention, the most consequential change in the law has been overlooked: One of a teacher’s observers must now be drawn from outside his or her school — someone whose only role is to comment on teaching.
The fact that 96% of teachers were given the two highest ratings last year — being deemed either “effective” or “highly effective” — is a sure sign that principals have not been honest to date. An external perspective will make it easier for longtime colleagues to have a frank conversation about each other’s instruction.
Yet as valuable as they might be, external observations also present significant logistical challenges. A lot of time could be wasted as observers travel from school to school. One alternative would be to allow teachers to submit videos to external observers (and, possibly, to their principals as well).
Doing so would have a number of advantages. For instance, teachers usually struggle because of the clues they are not noticing while they teach. It is difficult for such teachers to recognize their mistakes after the fact by reading an observer’s written notes after class.
Giving teachers control of a camera, the opportunity to watch themselves teach, and allowing them to discuss their work with external observers, peers and supervisors will provide a more effective mirror than any observer’s written notes.
With the benefit of video, harried principals could do their observations during quieter times of the day or week. And when principals do not have sufficient content expertise, they could solicit the views of content experts.
Classroom observations which are part of teacher evaluations have proven ineffective when attempting to improve student achievement. Classroom evaluations conducted by principals and outside persons have already proven ineffective. Even the usage of video taping can be only productive as a tool for reflective practice.
The bottom line with teacher evaluations is the improvement of student achievement. The best way to incorporate a fair teacher evaluation system is to pre and post test the students that the teacher is responsible for educating.
The following steps would prove beneficial.
- Pre test each student during the third week of school
- Develop eight units of instruction with a pre and post test for each unit. This will help teachers and administrators to measure the success of students as they progress throughout the entire year.
- Post test each student at the end of the school year
- Compare the pre test and the post test results
Teacher evaluation systems that measure teacher effectiveness through pre and post testing is the only system that is fair.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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