I am a big fan of the Common Core Standards. I love the consistency, the depth, and the scope. I believe they benefit an increasingly mobile society and provide inspiration and support to teachers. I like that colleges have an idea of what children are expected to know and that parents can easily tap into what their child should be learning. But, I am not a fan of completely tying teacher evaluations to test scores. Wait, back up, I’m not a fan of tying student success to test scores. I’ve seen to many children struggle with tests because they are written for a certain cultural bias or because the format is unfamiliar or because children panic when faced with the pressure.
I’ve worked with many incredible teachers, in fact most were incredible. Most teachers are in the profession because they love children and want them to succeed. The really special teachers often take on the hardest cases, those children who come from troubled families, who are just learning the language, or who have disabilities. They take the children, identify their most pressing needs, and try to help them. Sometimes, the most pressing need is not to get a good score on a standardized test.
It is easy to succeed as a teacher in a wealthy school district. Having parental support, lots of resources, and motivated colleagues is fun and energizing. It is much harder to be in a failing district where everyone is blamed for the problems. But, the good teachers need to be in both places and equating success to test results won’t make that happen. I still support principal evaluations as the best way to evaluate a teacher. I also think student and parent evaluations can play a part although I do worry about a teacher’s ability to make difficult decisions in that case. Schools, principals, and teachers should work together to figure out how to evaluate and retain teachers, not tests and committees.
A recent article in the Washington Post, by Lindsey Layton, points out that “teachers account for a maximum of about 14 percent of a student’s test score, with other factors responsible for the rest.” Read the whole article here: Washington Post, Good Teaching, Poor Test Results, by Lindsey Layton.
What can you do as parent to “evaluate” and encourage teachers?
- When your child comes home with a great story about their teacher, send a thank you note!
- If you are happy with your child’s teacher, write a letter to the principal and the superintendent. Make sure to include concrete examples about why you think the teacher is doing a great job.
- Volunteer in the school. Spend time watching the teachers and the school. Then, verbally support the school among your social networks.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Talk about impresses you about your child’s teacher and school.
- If you have concerns, take them to an administrator and talk through them. Don’t be a pain, but don’t complain to other people without first trying to understand the problem and then to solve it.
Teachers and parents work together. We trust our children to these schools, and a few notes in a school year can make a huge difference in the satisfaction of teachers and administrators.