As the saying goes, those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach. But in the education bureaucracy, those who can’t teach, teach teaching. And those who can’t teach teaching, evaluate.
The New York Times informs us of the struggles, bordering on the absurd, that Tennessee is experiencing as it attempts to conform to the diktats of the federal government’s Race to the Top competition. Tennessee is just one of many states forced to increase the number of classroom observations of public school teachers.
What do these observations entail? Teachers are evaluated based on one or two of four areas: instruction, professionalism, classroom environment, and planning. The Times gives a taste of the criteria:
Instruction, for example, has 12 subcategories, including ‘motivating students’ and ‘presenting instructional content.’ Motivating students, in turn, has subcategories like ‘regularly reinforces and rewards effort.’ In all, there are 116 subcategories.
As if 116 subcategories weren’t enough, the evaluation process also includes a “pre-conference” (in which teachers explain the upcoming lesson), a “post-conference” (in which evaluators offer ideas for improvement), and up to six hours of inputting data.
Regular readers of Via Meadia will know that we’re certainly no cheerleaders for teachers’ unions. They have a point in their objections to this madness, however. Most state evaluation systems are needlessly complicated, time-consuming, and startlingly ineffective as it is. Measures aimed at increasing their significance are misguided.
The unions’ stock answer for all problems, life tenure for incompetents at ever higher pay, isn’t the answer either. Giving parents more power to pick schools is the better option.