Racing to Nowhere: Ways Teacher Evaluation Reform Devalues Teachers

In a recent blog (see here), I posted about a teacher evaluation brief written by Alyson Lavigne and Thomas Good for Division 15 of the American Psychological Association (see here). There, Lavigne and Good voiced their concerns about inadequate teacher evaluation practices that did not help teachers improve instruction, and they described in detail the weaknesses of testing and observation practices used in current teacher evaluation practices.

In their book, Enhancing Teacher Education, Development, and Evaluation, they discuss other factors which diminish the value of teachers and teaching. They note that for decades many various federal documents, special commissions, summits, and foundation reports periodically issue reports that blatantly assert (with limited or no evidence) that American schools and teachers are tragically flawed and at times the finger has even been pointed at our students (e.g., A Nation at Risk chided students for their poor effort and performance). These reports, ranging from the Sputnik fear to the Race to the Top crisis, have pointed to an immediate and dangerous crisis. The cause of the crisis: Our inadequate schools that places America at scientific, military, or economic peril. 

Given the plethora of media reports that follow these pronouncements of school crises (and pending doom) citizens are taught at least implicitly that schools are a mess, but the solutions are easy…if only teachers worked hard enough. Thus, when reforms fail, many policy makers scapegoat teachers as inadequate or uncaring. Lavigne and Good contend that these sweeping reforms (and their failures) reinforce the notion that teachers are inadequate. As the authors note, most teachers do an excellent job in supporting student growth and that they should be recognized for this accomplishment. In contrast, and unfortunately, teachers are scapegoated for conditions (e.g., poverty) that they cannot control.

They reiterate (and effectively emphasize) that an unexplored collateral damage (beyond the enormous cost and wasted resources of teachers and administrators) is the impact that sweeping and failed reform has upon citizens’ willingness to invest in public education. Policy makers and the media must recognize that teachers are competent and hard working and accomplish much despite the inadequate conditions in which they work.

Read more here: Enhancing Teacher Education, Development, and Evaluation

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