In Colorado, all of our teachers are above average. Or at least that’s the take away from the new teacher evaluation pilot program, where 87 to 92 percent of teachers scored proficient across five different evaluation criteria. Recent public school grads in the unemployment line, remedial junior college classes, and their parents’ basements may beg to differ.
This new teacher evaluation system was born out of SB 10-191, the landmark Great Teachers & Leaders Act, designed to ensure that every public school student in Colorado has the benefit of effective teachers and principals, and to help provide a fair and reasonable way to remove unqualified teachers. The law set forth a system where 50 percent of a teacher’s performance evaluation was based on the professional standards evaluated in the pilot, with the other 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation comprised of student achievement.
And therein lies the issue. Teachers do not want to be evaluated on the most fundamental output of their industry: student achievement. It is no secret that student performance has been lacking, with dismal graduation rates and persistent achievement gaps that cut along racial lines, we are failing our children on a massive scale.
To not focus like a laser on student achievement is a recipe for disaster. If a business was in a real bind and needed to grow revenue, the first thing that it would look at are the sales numbers, and every employee would be graded on how he contributed to the top line. Each would be incentivized to take specific steps to increase sales, and other busy work that did not provide a clear path toward that goal would take a back seat.
Here we have teachers clamoring to be graded in categories such as “leadership,” “reflect on practice,” and “establishing an environment.” While we are sure that these criteria have some role in the professional development of teachers, we need to be more focused on preparing students for careers and college. It would be nice to see category such as “impart knowledge in the areas of math, civics, science, and grammar.”
Unfortunately for our public school students, administrators and union leaders will not be as fast to act on ways to improve test scores and college preparedness as they are in gathering signatures for a tax hike to line their own pockets. We guess they just have other priorities.