*Disclaimer: 1) I know this is a touchy subject, I’m only trying to add to the dialogue. 2) I proofread with my son in the room, so was distracted, but wanted to get this “out there”. :)
There has obviously been a lot of discussion in both traditional media and the edublogosphere about assessing teacher quality. Most of the assessment schemes have come from outside education and most educators seem to have spent their time criticizing these schemes. Instead of criticizing, I want to invest in a dialogue (not give an absolute answer) about how teacher quality might be usefully assessed. While I would support paying “better” teachers more, the point of this post is only to brainstorm a way to assess teacher quality, not how, or if, teachers should be paid more based on these assessments (even if “better” teachers did get paid more, the amount would probably be insulting).
First, I believe we have to face what I believe to be an honest truth. Some teachers are better than others and some teachers do work harder than others. Right now, there are very few avenues for more talented or more hard-working teachers to be rewarded. Yes, teaching itself is a reward and, as educators, we all know intrinsic motivation is far superior to extrinsic motivation, yet we all have an ego. We all appreciate being recognized for our talents and efforts. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough awards, edublog or otherwise :), to go around.
So how do we know if a teacher is of “high quality”? I don’t think we need to compare teachers to each other, but I think there may be value in identifying what makes a “good” teacher. While we might claim good teaching is like pornography (we know it when we see it), being able to articulate what constitutes good teaching is important. Once we can accurately describe “good teaching” we can begin to help those teachers who are not there yet to improve. Once we can articulate “good teaching” we can reward those teachers who have the talent and/or have put in the hard work of becoming “good”.
Importantly, looking at student test scores is not the way to assess teacher quality. Different classes have different students, different tests produce different results, students will test differently on different days, etc. Instead we should be looking at what teachers do. When a medical doctor/surgeon is assessed they are not assessed based solely on patient survival rates. If so, very few doctors would likely enter specialties with high mortality rates. The doctor is not solely judged against whether a patient gets better, but if the doctor took the appropriate steps in treatment. So, we should be looking at teachers in the act of teaching. That is, to what extent is the teacher taking appropriate steps to promote student learning. Teachers cannot force students to learn, but they can promote/encourage student learning.
So, if teachers might be more accurately assessed by what they DO in a classroom, what things would we expect to see high quality teachers doing? What things would we see them not doing?
I’ll share my ideas in a separate post, but the teacher in me wants to know what you think first. :)