Nola.com published the article, “Louisiana ranked second in country for teacher evaluations, new report says,” on January 30, 2014. The article touts that Louisiana ranks 2nd in the country for both evaluating teachers and creating well-prepared teachers based on the National Council of Teacher Quality 2013 State Teacher Policy Yearbook. However, the full report shows a different picture. The state has improved in many areas, except one – delivering well-prepared teachers. We have actually dropped from a C to a C-. Yet we have improved in every area related to teacher evaluation.
More important than good testing is good teaching. While we may be getting better at teaching schools how to evaluate teachers, we need to get better at producing and preparing good teachers. In her book, The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way, Amanda Ripley found that teachers in Finland, one of the countries that ranked at the top of the world in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) scores, never lost jobs due to student performance and didn’t publish results of student test scores. This was, in part, because they didn’t have to. In Finland, all teacher education schools were selective, taking only the best of the best. Teachers also received top-notch education and training.
I’m sure if you talk to teachers, most of them won’t say that they choose to be ineffective. When teachers are adequately prepared, there’s less of a need to improve evaluation strategies. It is this excerpt from Ripley’s book that really brings it home:
One criticism of the rigorous Common Core State Standards is the concern that our kids have not been provided the foundational knowledge and skills necessary to get them ready for a successful transition to more rigorous standards.
The same is true for our teachers.
Just as students will be held accountable for demonstrating knowledge and skills they haven’t received, teachers will also be held accountable for demonstrating knowledge and skills they haven’t received.
If we are going to be truly successful at reforming education and moving toward higher standards, using testing and performance evaluations to drive and determine success is not the answer. The answer, in part, is to arm both teachers and students with the opportunity to gain the higher levels of knowledge and skills necessary to get off on the right foot.