It has been more eloquently said before, but I'll say it again. The problem here is not necessarily that any given theory of action with respect to teacher effectiveness policy has been right or wrong, but that policymakers have repeatedly tried to do far too much to public education systems that are highly sensitive, nuanced, intricate, and human. Ultimately, theories of action that address teacher effectiveness at a macro level must by their very nature be oversimplified in order to be actionable at all. And in the arena of teacher effectiveness policy, oversimplification leads to logistical hoops and little else.
My view of educator effectiveness policy has largely been from my vantage point as a teaching practitioner. Colorado passed SB-191 -- the state's educator effectiveness bill -- when I was about halfway through my elementary teaching degree. While the topic of SB-191 periodically came up in conversations during the remainder of my time at my school of education, it was never a prominent topic. From my perspective, all those at my school viewed SB-191 as a slightly different model for carrying out performance reviews that educators had been giving and receiving for years. More plainly, many of the people I was around were apathetic toward any changes SB-191 was to bring about.
When I began teaching, a couple years after SB-191 was passed, I noticed that there was purposeful emphasis placed on educating teachers and principals about the shifts occurring in relation to educator effectiveness. I attended what felt like many meetings about SB-191 and related programs specific to my district. To me, the aspects of teacher effectiveness that were talked about at such meetings seemed to be little more than common sense. As a teacher, I expected to have my performance reviewed according to the factors that compose a quality teacher, and I expected there to be consequences in the event I was ineffective. Particularly among other teachers, I again noticed that there was a general sense of apathy toward SB-191 and related conversations. While there were some logistical questions that teachers around me asked and repeated, logistical considerations always appeared -- and still do appear -- to be at the limit of concern.
With all that said, the inefficacy of educator effectiveness policy was never clear to me until I went through my first year of teaching and first performance review cycle. After a few peer observations and a couple principal observations, I sat down with my principal to talk about how I'd done. She was busy, she had too many teachers to review and not enough time, and I spoke with her for about 15 minutes to go over my scores. She told me that she liked me, that my students liked me, that my students' parents liked me, and that I had done well. And even though my effectiveness scores were high, as I looked them over with her I quickly reached a conclusion that there wasn't a single score on my sheet that wasn't nearly entirely arbitrary. The piles of money that had been spent on educator effectiveness policy might as well have all been spent on me, because they simply had never mattered.
Keep the systems that are already in place, and allow districts and schools to manage their teacher effectiveness as they must, but don't spend any more money on the crusade . . . it's not going to take us anywhere.
Posted by Parker Fulton
Photo Credit to Huffington Post