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Missing the mark
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Just as with the way the state of Georgia chooses to evaluate student performance in its K-12 public schools, it seems clear the upcoming effort to evaluate teacher performance will leave much to be desired.
A centerpiece of student evaluation in Georgia’s public schools is the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, administered to students in grades 1-8 in the areas of reading, English/language arts and mathematics, with students in grades 3-8 being assessed additionally in science and social studies.
While those tests may have some value in determining how well students perform with regard to the state’s own standards, they provide no help in comparing Georgia students to students in other states.
For that, the National Assessment of Educational Progress is an effective tool, and it almost invariably finds Georgia students lagging compared to students outside this state.
Like the CRCT, the educator evaluation scheme that will be piloted in 26 of the state’s 182 school districts beginning in January, and that could eventually be tied to merit bonuses for teachers, is an internal evaluation, with no way of comparing Georgia teachers to their peers elsewhere in the country.
Beyond that, though, are any number of other reasons to be concerned that the state’s new teacher evaluation scheme could turn out to be far more problematic than helpful.
Consider, for instance, the possibilities for harmful mischief in connection with two subjective aspects of the evaluation – assessments done by students and by administrators.
According to an Associated Press story, part of the judgments made on teachers will be based on student surveys and on a grand total of two classroom observations by school administrators. It’s not hard to imagine that students would be eager to hand out unflattering assessments of teachers who challenge them, and it’s similarly easy to imagine some administrators using their observation as a tool to punish teachers who clearly are effective in the classroom, but might have little patience with bureaucracy.
Even the objective standards included in the teacher evaluation protocol, particularly with regard to measuring how much progress a student makes in a given teacher’s class, raise questions about the assessment.
What about a teacher who oversees a classroom where a number of students are frequently absent? Will that teacher, in effect, be punished for that, even though it is entirely outside his or her control? Or, what about a teacher who has a number of students who transfer into his or her classes? Could that teacher, in effect, be penalized for work not done by those students’ previous teachers?
For good or ill – at least in terms of trying to quantify a teacher’s performance – teaching is an intensely personal human enterprise, defying easy measurement. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be some attempt to assess teacher performance. Clearly, though, the state of Georgia is missing the mark with its new evaluation scheme.

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