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Consternation About Teacher Evaluation

Teachers should be evaluated solely on their own performance. Period.

Earlier this month, Youngstown City Schools CEO Krish Mohip launched a new teacher evaluation system that made absolutely no sense.

Under the new process, 50% of a teacher’s evaluation would be based on walk-through observations and the other 50% would be based on so-called “shared-attribution measures” – i.e., a district-wide value-added measure of student growth, based on the previous year’s test scores.

In short, a substantial part of each teacher’s evaluation would hinge on the performance of the school system as a whole. As a result, an excellent teacher could see her evaluation dragged down by the lousy test scores of students taught by others on the far side of town.

Understandably, many Youngstown educators weren’t happy about that prospect and a recent survey showed that a majority opposed the use of shared-attribution measures.

On Wednesday, Mohip acknowledged those concerns, announcing that he would “take a pause and reach out to the schools” to get input on the evaluation process. At the same, he continued to defend the shared-attribution approach, explaining that “shared attribution is supposed to encourage collaboration between teachers.”

Education officials in other states and districts have made the same argument to justify the use of similar “collective measures” in their teacher evaluations. The claim is that educators are more inclined to work together to raise student achievement when their evaluations (at least in part) depend on it.

The only problem with this theory-of-action is that it’s complete nonsense. If education leaders want to engender greater teamwork and collaboration among teachers, they can send them on a retreat, have them tackle a ropes course, or plan staff happy hours after school on Fridays. In truth, policymakers push for school- or district-wide performance measures out of a desire to have an objective component in every teacher’s evaluation, even for those in non-tested grades and subjects.

Nevertheless, it’s fundamentally unfair to evaluate a teacher based on the performance of students they don’t teach. Instead of encouraging collaboration, it creates resentment, damages morale, and allows opponents of accountability to claim that evaluations are rigged against teachers

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Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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