On Teacher Evaluations, Teacher's Voices Matter

Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt and Allison Rizzolo

First published in March, 2012 - ImpatientOptimists.Org

We've seen the fallout when teachers are left out of discussions on how they’re evaluated: states and school districts have pushed through top-down methods for measuring teacher effectiveness without input from teachers and principals. While some of these have been successful, we still hear about efforts fraught with controversy, complaints and, at times, failure. These contribute to teacher morale recently hitting a 20-year low.

But this week is about honoring teachers, education leaders, and reformers from around the world as they gather in New York City to celebrate teaching and learning. We join in this celebration, and in recognizing that teachers must have a say in how we run our schools. This is particularly true for discussions around how we determine whether teachers are helping their students succeed.

After all, teachers know what strategies and practices help students learn and succeed, both within and beyond the classroom. Yet, when it comes to designing new ways to evaluate their work and provide them with the feedback they need to improve, teachers are left out of the discussion far too often.

It's not that teachers aren't open to evaluation—research from both of our organizations suggests most teachers embrace stronger methods for assessing, rewarding, and improving their skills. And AFT President Randi Weingarten agrees that teachers would welcome thoughtfully designed, well-rounded, and substantive evaluations.

Everyone at the Table is a set of online resources that will help policymakers bring teachers into the discussion of how to make their evaluations meaningful, reliable, and helpful in their work. We know these conversations can be tricky. There is distrust and uncertainty about how we define what makes a teacher effective, and how to best measure that. Education leaders may fear they will lose credibility if they do not implement the ideas that teachers suggest.

Everyone at the Table helps teachers, as well as school and district leaders, tackle the challenges of moderating these potentially difficult conversations while designing a strategy that includes teacher input in a meaningful way. We encourage you to head to our website to learn more about these processes and ideas.

We believe such efforts are much more likely to lead to evaluation plans that are fair and respectful to teachers—and more effective and sustainable.

Through an appreciation for teachers' experiences, insights, and ideas, and a commitment to genuine collaboration, we hope to strengthen our ideals for education—helping our nation’s students learn and succeed—by bringing everyone to the table on these reforms.

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