It is Time to Start Over
When educators engage in continuous learning, student learning is improved.
(Donohoo, 2017, p. 51)
Teacher evaluation systems in this country do more harm than good to student learning because they focus on the outputs of effective teaching (teachers teaching lessons) instead of the inputs (teacher collaboration, lesson planning, data analysis and professional learning). We need to redesign our teacher evaluations systems to measure the behaviors and activities that increase collective efficacy—the number one factor in student achievement (Donohoo, Hattie & Eells, 2018).
All evaluation programs are built on assumptions. We need new assumptions about effective teaching to guide the construction of teacher evaluations. And unlike the current, unexamined assumptions, the new assumptions need to be explicitly stated before a new system is built. A fundamental shift in belief, philosophy and operation must advance for adult professional learning and student achievement to increase.
New Assumption #1: Schools Are Not Businesses
Schools are their own, unique entities. We are not going to get anywhere by treating them like for-profit institutions.
Schools should be willing to try anything that will help students. If looking into other industries and using some of their strategies will help educators better serve students, then they should do so. But what we've done with regard to teacher evaluation isn't an example of that. Instead, we copied a flawed system from the corporate world. Modern teacher evaluations systems mirror three models used in business (Lavigne, 2014):
- • Rating scales: measuring performance to a documented standard
- • Ranking method: employees are ranked against each other in assessed performance
- • Forced distribution: a bell curve is applied to teacher performance
All of these approaches are subject to systematic problems that have been documented in literature and respond to one another, each attempting to combat the flaws with the other methods.
Corporate America has had its fair share of high-stakes evaluations and many of the most aggressive models have been scaled back. The failures and challenges faced in the business world's version of high-stakes evaluation paints an uncertain picture for the application of such models in education. The history of high stakes in previous educational efforts offers additional concerns.
(Lavigne, 2014, p. 6)
Educators should consult research from other fields and collaborate with other professionals. But policymakers should not copy business models of operation blindly and think that they will have a positive impact on schools, especially if the action has not had a positive impact in other fields. It is time we come to the realization that schools are unique. There is no other societal institution that they compare to, because of our clients and their diverse needs.