Monday, October 3, 2011

Teacher Evaluation

At all levels of education in the New York area, the key conversation at this moment in time revolves around the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) which will beginning now affect New York’s  K- 12 teachers and administrators.  Be it in public schools or in schools of education, the education community is focused on what APPR means and what the impact will be.  Nationwide, the equivalent of an APPR (and a more common curriculum)seems to be in various stages of development . For me, as a long time supporter of  comprehensive on-going evaluation of  faculty at the higher education level, including student course and teacher ratings, peer observations, ongoing support and feedback, I also support K-12 comprehensive evaluation of teaching . 

The major portion of these performance reviews will look a lot like the performance reviews already been taking place continuously in K-12 education.  Classroom observations are and will continue to be an important part of this matrix.  But there are differences between APPR and what has existed before.  An important factor in the new evaluations will be the progress demonstrated by students on standardized state or comparable local examinations. How much this component will actually be is still in dispute, and will depend on the results of litigation as well as collective bargaining negotiations before being fully decided.  What is not in dispute is that after 2 years of being evaluated as ineffective, a teacher’s job could be on the line.

As a school board member, I am more and more involved in discussions on APPR and I also know that our School of Education, Health and Human Services is fully involved in how to prepare our teacher education students for APPR as well as how to prepare local school districts to be as successful as possible with APPR.   I want APPR to work, but I am very worried as to how it will work.

The economics of K-12 public education is not in good shape. A tax cap with too little legislated mandate relief will clearly require we educate our students with less available dollars.  Class size, support services and other enrichment activities will likely suffer. At the same time, with the implementation of higher standards on statewide examinations as well as a transition to a mostly national common core curriculum, we will be expecting our students to do more and do better.  And our teachers will be judged individually on how successful they are in making this happen.

Even if our teaching becomes even more effective, the end result when all the other factors are included could be students doing no better than before or perhaps even worse.  How will that factor into the evaluation of teaching?  And for those of us in higher education, as our future students go through what could be a less robust K-12 education, we may end up with students who are less well prepared (even though the APPR and the common core curriculum was motivated by our wanting to more effectively prepare students for higher education).  And do we have the resources, if in fact that should happen?  I know that as an economist, I have a bias in terms of how important economics is in so much of what we do.  But here is another example of, with the best of intentions but with far from the best of economic times, the results may be in question.

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