“Teachers are not nervous about taking responsibility,” Weingarten said. “What they are nervous about is that all of this is being done to them, without them … in so many places (not) having any voice in it whatsoever, and it’s about thwarting and firing as opposed to about helping to improve instruction.”
In the District of Columbia, controversial former Chancellor Michelle Rhee adopted a teacher evaluation system in part based on student performance, and teachers were among hundreds of school employees laid off under the new evaluation system. Some teachers like the recognition and pay increases in the system, but her policies played a role in the defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty for re-election.
As states develop new methods of rating teachers, challenges include training school districts to use the new systems and finding ways to evaluate teachers of subjects that don’t have standardized tests, said Janice Poda of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
To ease growing pains, some states like New Jersey, which asked the Obama administration this week for a waiver from No Child Left Behind, have opted to try evaluation systems in only a limited number of school districts before going statewide. Among the 11 states that asked for waivers this week, much of what was included on teacher and principal evaluations was preliminary but already in the works. As other states submit applications, more changes in evaluations are expected.
“I absolutely think it’s important for teachers to get feedback about their practice,” said Poda, the council’s strategic initiative director for the education workforce.
“I think all teachers should be on some kind of a continuous growth plan so that they can always be learning new things and improving their practice, and I think that’s true for leaders as well,” Poda said.