The troubled state of teacher evaluation is a glaring and largely neglected problem in public education. Co-director of Education Sector Institute Thomas Toch and Robert Rothman of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform examine the causes and consequences of the crisis in teacher evaluation, as well as its implications for the current debate about performance pay.

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Rush to Judgment : Teacher Evaluation in Public Education

Education Sector’s latest report recommends several ways for school districts and states to improve how they evaluate teachers. The suggestions are based on "comprehensive evaluation systems" that involve a much deeper examination of teachers’ instructional practices than traditional reviews by principals. In setting up their case for these comprehensive models, the authors provide a tremendously helpful overview of several new and innovative approaches to teacher evaluation, including the well-known Teacher Advancement Program (TAP). They also do a fine job of dissecting these programs in the context of school-system politics and show how districts and states can secure the buy-in of teachers and their union leaders. Interested readers will find much value in these sections. But they should be skeptical of the report’s conclusions. The evaluation models that the authors consider worth emulating emphasize instructional practice, with little regard for outcomes. They are big fans, for instance, of Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, on which TAP is based, and which focuses on Planning and Preparation, The Classroom Environment, Instruction, and Professional Responsibilities—not one measure of what students actually learn. The authors recognize the incompleteness of their approach, but defend it by arguing that standardized test scores provide an unfair measure of learning and that proper teacher ratings generally align with student achievement anyway, so why measure outcomes ? Both arguments rest on the too-common assumption that teachers should be given the benefit of every last itty-bitty doubt when it comes to holding them accountable for student achievement. But, trite as the question is, what ever happened to treating students fairly ? Why isn’t "are students learning ?" the first among several questions we ask when it comes to evaluating teachers ?

Presentation by Coby Loup, The Week’s Education Gadfly, A Weekly Bulletin of News and Analysis from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Volume 8, Number 6. February 7, 2008

La fondazione americana Education Sector [1] ha pubblicato uno studio redatto da due tra i più noti specialisti americani di politiche scolastiche ed in particolare di politiche della valutazione, Thomas Toch e Robert Rothman, nel quale si formulano raccomandazioni per i distretti scolastici (l’equivalente delle province) e per gli Stati (l’equivalente delle regioni) su come migliorare la valutazione dei docenti.

Per l’udienza italiana due sono i punti da sottolineare che si possono desumere da questo studio :

- valutare gli insegnanti è una necessità ed una responsabilità delle autorità responsabili del servizio statale d’istruzione. La valutazione dei docenti non dev’essere un tabù.

- la responsabilità di valutare gli insegnanti incombe alle province ed alle region, e non spetta ai dirigenti scolastici (gli Stati Uniti sono un paese federalista con un sistema scolastico decentralizzato, nel quale i livelli intermedi hanno ampi poteri in campo scolastico).

Negli allegati, il rapporto presenta vari modelli di valutazione dei docenti ripartiti in tre categorie :

La valutazione dei debuttanti :

- PACT (Performance Assessment for California Teachers) ;

- Praxis III sviluppato dall’ETS di Princeton

- BEST (Beginning Educator Support and Training) del Dipartimento dell’educazione del Connecticut  [2]

La valutazione di docenti esperti :

- CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System)

- THE TOLEDO PLAN (“peer assistance and review” sviluppato nel sistema scolastico di Toledo)

- National Board for Professional Teaching Standards  [3]

Allegato :

Rush to Judgment : Teacher Evaluation in Public Education

Thomas Toch and Robert Rothman

Education Sector, January 2008

[1] Education Sector is an independent education policy think tank devoted to developing innovative solutions to the nation’s most pressing educational problems. Education Sector is a nonprofit and nonpartisan, both a dependable source of sound thinking on policy and an honest broker of evidence in key education debates throughout the United States

[2] Connecticut Department of Education

[3] The board’s evaluations are based on a portfolio of videotapes and other materials that capture teachers’ classroom instruction

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