Like school districts all across the country, California’s are figuring out the best way to evaluate teachers. The stark reality is that some districts will be successful in this, and others will not.
Whether a district’s teacher evaluation system works or not will depend on a few things: whether the system is correctly conceived of and designed, how well the system is implemented, and, after evaluation, the district’s level of commitment to ongoing teacher learning.
First and foremost, an evaluation system must be designed with the end goal in mind: to improve teacher effectiveness and student learning. If this sounds too obvious, take a look at the Center for American Progress’ explanation about how some states have viewed evaluation as a means for firing so-called “bad” teachers, as a silver-bullet-style quick fix to dramatically improve education in the nation. It is naive to view evaluation solely as a means to rank teachers and make hiring and firing decisions. Fortunately, the debate is changing. It is rising up to meet those of us who have long advocated that the best way to improve student learning is to continuously focus on advancing the instructional practice of teachers. Evaluation systems conceived under this philosophy will be the most likely to succeed.