The most reliable measure of whether teachers will succeed with a class is whether they have succeeded before, but the relevant data are treated as top secret by most districts. While a parent can find out how third-graders at their school fared on the state’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests last year, they can’t tease out how Ms. Brown’s third-grade class, or Mr. Smith’s, performed.
Virtually all data about individual teacher performance disappear into some black hole. If you pull up the latest state Department of Education Report Card for Gwinnett’s Brookwood High School, for example, you can find out that 45 percent of algebra students exceeded standards, 36 percent met, and 18 percent failed.
But there’s no way Brookwood parents can discern whether any corollary exists between student pass rates and specific math teachers. Nor can you match Advanced Placement scores to teachers — unless there’s only one person teaching an AP course that year.
True, test results for a single year won’t tell parents much; it could be that a teacher walked into a class of slow learners one year and a class of Einsteins the next.
However, it would be helpful and fair to examine a teacher’s performance over several years. If Brookwood parents discovered that the students of one algebra teacher consistently surpassed standards and students of another repeatedly failed, they’d push hard to get their kid in the former’s class.
Now, please don’t get it twisted. I’m all about teacher accountability. Really, I am. I believe that teacher performance does make a difference in the education of our students. But I think I need some more information on how this would work before I can decide if I’m sold on it.
In some school environments, parents request class changes for their children just so their child can receive an A. Does that mean the child is high achieving or does that mean that the teacher is a lax grader? Right now, we’re in an educational environment that emphasizes high achievement on standardized tests. If my students pass the test, does that make me a great teacher? Are you really able to gauge their ability to successfully understand and articulate the principles behind the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation when all they have to do is bubble in an answer?
Teachers are an integral part of the education system, and I’m all for holding US (yes, including me) accountable. And report cards might be part of that system of accountability. But I would hope that these (and other) options would be FULLY explored before anything is put into place.
Just my thoughts from a first year teacher…