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Teacher Evaluation, Controversial Topics

Teacher Evaluation, Controversial Topics

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson, students will explore what makes the teacher evaluation process so controversial

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Welcome. I'm Trisha Fyfe. And in the video lesson, we will cover the lesson titled Teacher Evaluation, Controversial Topics. As we learn about this topic, we will work towards one main learning objective. And together, we'll answer the following question throughout this video lesson, what makes the teacher evaluation process so controversial?

So let's start by discussing why teacher evaluations might be so controversial. There are several different reasons that this is the case, and we'll talk about these in this video lesson. These include things like educational research and the revelations that this has brought on, state education agency or SEA concerns, value-added models or VAM, and incentive pay. And again, we'll touch on each of these throughout this video lesson.

Let's start by looking at some of the concerns that have been revealed by educational research. According to Brookings Center, some concerns are that there is public release of teacher data. There's also a concern that student interests and needs versus teacher interests and needs are not always aligned properly. The use of standardized assessment data for decisions that greatly impact students and teachers is another concern. These vital decisions are especially important to consider when thinking about students that come from diverse cultural backgrounds and racial backgrounds.

Assessments have been proven to be very poor measurement tools of these types of students. And the decisions made from this data affect those involved greatly. It's also controversial that the evaluators have so much power. While most of the time this is not a concern, we are putting a lot of reliability onto these evaluators to always make the very best decisions. And they are human, of course.

There are also many variables involved such as the context of the school, the amount and type of resources that each different school and each teacher has, and the location in which the teacher is teaching.

Let's look at some of the state education or SEA concerns next. SEAs are required to determine how highly qualified teachers are evaluated.

How is it determined that a teacher is, in fact, highly qualified? Because each state and even district has different measures to get to this data. This can be very difficult process, but it is one that the SEAs must go through as they begin to report to the US Department of Education the information on the levels of students' access to these highly qualified teachers, specifically those students that are in the protected groups. There are strict requirements for teacher evaluation models. But a very high-- sometimes unusually high number of teachers-- are evaluated as effective and highly effective every single year.

A concern that surfaces regarding this is that the reports, or maybe even the process of evaluation, can very well be manipulated. This might be done so that certain individuals or schools meet the requirements.

Other concerns regarding misleading data are that scores might be inflated and credentialism, where certification is shown, but the process is different and lacks some of those rigorous elements of the traditional teacher preparation programs.

Value-added models or VAMs also have concerns and issues surrounding them. Teacher evaluation goes back to the student achievement on state standardized tests in some states and school districts. Those teachers whose students are showing the most growth on assessments from year to year, are those that are deemed highly effective. The problem lies in the process.

Since all teacher certificate areas are not tested, this makes it incredibly hard to understand and make assumptions from student growth data across the content and grade areas. It's also questioned whether it's appropriate to use the same standardized assessments and data for all students, including those from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds. Others might ask, should we use this data regarding student achievement to make such important decisions, especially those decisions regarding teacher employment?

VAM is very important. It looks at the impact of the quality of teachers on student achievement. Researchers do agree on this, however, it's advised to think very carefully about how we use this data, especially when we're making such high-stakes decisions. There are so many influential factors here, such as student mobility and diversity, differences in resources from district to district, opportunities and quality for professional development, and different access levels to coaching and mentoring.

Another very sensitive issue surrounding teacher evaluations is centered around incentive pay, or the pay that teachers receive along with their base pay. This is incurred as there are increases in levels of student achievement at times.

Some models of teacher evaluation in various states and school districts are associated with this incentive pay that stems from student achievement levels. To this point, there's been very little research done regarding the connection between higher or increasing levels of student achievement and offering incentive pay. Because of this, sensitive, controversial matter often backfires, creating an environment between colleagues that's very competitive and stressful, defeating the purpose of working toward creating a culture that's collaborative and supportive.

As an alternative, career ladder systems have been developed. These are systems of evaluation in which teachers are recognized for continuation, tenure, improvement, and dismissal. Professional standards are used in mentoring and coaching systems within this career ladder system. Higher retention rates are often found when career models use effective mentoring.

In the career ladder system, teachers are evaluated up to six times a year by highly trained mentors and principals. Planning, instruction, and the learning community are all observed throughout this process. And videotapes and conferencing are used as well. One of the goals of this system is to align professional development and the process, which ultimately results in improvement for teachers and growth, as well as higher levels of achievement in our students.

One idea that's being looked at is the suggestion that teachers' pay should not be tied solely to students' standardized achievement data, but instead, we should look at these career ladder systems and create models of paying teacher incentives from these.

Let's talk about what we learned today. Today, we looked at the following question, what makes a teacher evaluation process so controversial? In today's lesson, we looked at some different controversial areas of teacher evaluation. We looked at educational research, value-added models or VAMs and incentive pay. While those involved in the development process no doubt have good intentions on models, there's much that still needs to be discovered.

Now that you're more familiar with these concepts, let's reflect. What do you think can be done to improve the process of teacher evaluation so that it is not so controversial?

Thanks for joining me today and discussing the lesson Teacher Evaluation, Controversial Topics. To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the additional resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on “Teacher Evaluation, Controversial Topics”


(00:00- 00:20) Introduction/Objectives

(00:21- 00:49) Why is Teacher Evaluation Controversial?

(00:50- 02:02) Concerns Revealed by Educational Research 

(02:03- 03:15) Concerns of State Educational Agencies (SEAs)

(03:16- 04:39) Concerns with Value-Added Models (VAMs)

(04:40- 05:45) Concerns with Incentive Pay

(05:46- 06:25) Career Ladders

(06:26- 06:54) Recap 

(06:55- 07:23) Reflection