Thursday, December 5, 2013

Why Rank Teachers?

In the private sector, employees may earn promotions from evaluations. That is generally not the case in education. Administration is a specialization of education, not necessarily a promotion for educators. Further, do we really want to create a system that incentivizes our "best" teachers to leave the classroom?

In the private sector, employees are often paid bonuses based on their reviews. Despite recent education reform efforts, that is not the case for most educators. Besides, historian Diane Ravitch explains through historical context in her book "Reign of Error" that merit pay has been tried, and has repeatedly failed.

Removing "ineffective" educators does not have to be done by ranking them against their peers. Such a decision can be determined by observation criteria and a process designed to give educators the opportunity to improve first.

Students do not get better because their teacher has a ranking.

Most people, regardless of their profession, do not enjoy being ranked. It leads to counterproductive tension, stress, and justified debate.

So what is the benefit of ranking teachers "Accomplished"; "Skillful"; "Developing"; "Ineffective"?

What if we turned back time. What if every penny and hour that has been poured into ranking teachers was poured into making us better?

What if for every minute teachers had to spend...
  • ...proctoring standardized tests; we led project based learning assignments.
  • ...discussing standardized tests; we discussed new instructional strategies.
  • ...completing performance evaluation paperwork; we explored applicable game-based learning tools.
  • ...completing pre and post conference observation paperwork; we observed fellow colleagues and collaborated with one another.
  • ...reviewing performance paperwork with our administrators; we discussed new ways to integrate technology into their classroom with our administrators.
  • ...reviewing test taking techniques; we created additional opportunities for student led projects. 
Most teachers love to learn. The explosion of Twitter chats and educational Pinterest posts are tangible anecdotes of our passion to improve - - even outside of school hours. We want to get better and we enjoy learning how to be better for our students. 

What I don't understand is how turning teachers into numbers and then sharing our numbers with the rest of the world is making us any better.

So... what is the benefit of ranking teachers, and what is the cost?

P.S. For any readers or legislators who may believe I'm "whining", my past "results" and upcoming "ranking" will be evidence that I'm not, but rather questioning purpose. 

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