Speaking Truth to Power

On the 7th floor conference room of the Department of Education (hence the official flag) about to present to senior ED officials. Yup, I'm kind of flipping out.

On the 7th floor conference room of the Department of Education (hence the official flag) about to present to senior ED officials. Yup, I’m kind of flipping out.

Last week I had the enormous privilege of putting on my only suit (and this time, no Toms), flying to Washington D.C., and advising senior education officials on teachers’ perspectives on the Common Core (CCSS). Despite being from Texas which, along with being the best state in the union, is also not adopting the CCSS, I love the new standards and think they represent a higher bar for all students. I for one will shed no tears on the day when I trade a multiple choice Jeopardy trivia exam for a written expository essay that requires students to use primary sources.

Unfortunately, such an exam is a long way off not only because I’m in Texas but also because these “next generation” exams take time to develop and field test. We are still several years away from being able to extract standardized data from exams based on the CCSS. This however will not stop many states as well as charter schools from linking students’ exam results to teacher evaluations. My colleagues and I specifically advocated for restraint in this area.

While I believe in the importance of teacher evaluation, the goal should be growth rather than punishment or even reward. Student achievement is and should be the end goal of successful teaching however the exams used to evaluate student achievement need to be fully vetted. It is premature to actively move towards linking teacher evaluation to new CCSS exams when many teachers are unaware of what the CCSS shifts mean for their day-to-day instruction. Good teachers backwards plan their instruction to summative assessments. In order to do this well, teachers need to fully unpack and understand the objective they are teaching. Additionally, teachers need numerous examples of the the types of questions the new exams will use to assess each objective in order to create formative assessments that accurately mirror the final exam. The two testing consortiums – PARCC and Smarter Balanced – have not released nearly enough examples to develop curriculum materials which we can confidently say are fully aligned.

I also worry immediately linking teacher evaluation to CCSS exams might turn teachers off to the Common Core. The CCSS will only succeed if teachers are fully invested. Teacher evaluation is a tricky subject; everyone now acknowledges it must be done and done better than before however many questions still remain over issues like what percentage of the evaluation should be linked to student test results. We should first focus on issues like developing effective support structures for teachers that go beyond a mentor teacher the first year and an annual 15 minute observation from the principal. Teacher evaluation should provide constructive, growth-minded feedback for teachers throughout the school year.

In the same way we have a long way to go before the next generation exams roll out, most districts have a long way to go in building effective teacher evaluation and development systems. So let’s back off on creating evaluation systems that link 50% of teachers’ evaluations to any student exam, Common Core linked or otherwise and move towards evaluations that are actionable and aimed at cultivating our sacred profession.

What are your thoughts on the Common Core and teacher evaluation?

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One thought on “Speaking Truth to Power

  1. […] jump on the link-test-scores-to-evaluations boat with the CCSS and while that linkage is important it should only come after several years of test vetting and professional development for […]

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