Evaluation Reform: Part Two – Teacher Voices

In a stack of papers called Reform.

  • Jul
  • 12
  • 2005

It’s been suggested that there is a struggle to create “objective, articulable standards” [sic] for teacher evaluation. It’s further been suggested that teachers be evaluated based on subjective standards, in the absence of those “articulable standards.” I, for one, certainly don’t want to be judged on subjective standards and I don’t want other teachers evaluated thusly. I wouldn’t judge my students subjectively and I wouldn’t expect any boss to evaluate employees subjectively.

Those objective standards will take some work, but they can be created. The work necessary to create them would be worthwhile and help create a stronger professional community on any campus that would choose to engage in such an endeavor. Maybe teachers themselves should be given control over how they are evaluated. Teachers could easily be evaluated by how well they meet their self-drafted goals for the year. That way, at least teachers would be clear on their responsibilities and expectations.

Why can’t objective criteria be things like “80% of students will be able to write an in-class 3-paragraph essay at a level of 4 or higher on the California High School Exit Exam rubric”? That’s an objective that I might draft, given that I know where my students are, where they have been in years past, weaknesses of my own teaching, and areas that I need to improve.

What about my own evaluation of my teaching on criteria like “students will take responsibility for class discussion, raising and attempting to answer questions and appropriate tangents”? Surely the way I see my class is worth somthing; I am in the classroom much longer than anyone else who would be evaluating me, sometimes even longer than any students I have.

What if the objective criteria change from class to class, teacher to teacher? Just because they aren’t standardized doesn’t mean criteria aren’t objective.

If you want an example of the opposite, of subjective standards, take a look at the California English/Language Arts Content Standards. There’s not a more wishy-washy, touchy-feely set of standards out there. Since when is the ability to “critique the power, validity, and truthfulness of arguments set forth in public documents” (standard – E/LA 11-12, Reading: 2.6) objective? That’s one of the most subjective things a person can do. For 10 people critiquing “the power, validity, and truthfulness” of an argument, you’ll have 10 different critiques. And identifying the truthfulness of an argument is something I have to teach? Isn’t “the truth” a relative term?

NOTE: This entry is also posted on my Bayosphere blog.

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