Based on some reading I’ve done (such as that covered in some posts a couple of weeks ago), and my nine years of teaching experience, I’d like to suggest a way of more effectively measuring teacher competence.
Traditionally, administrators observe bits and pieces of a few classes, and spot check the teacher’s lesson plan book, basing their evaluations largely on criteria related to how the lesson plan book demonstrates cohesion with school district standards and syllabi.
This really doesn’t work. Lesson plan books are better at recording what has already happened than at committing to what will happen–in a good classroom, there is so much flexibility and adaptation as teachers respond to immediate needs that any lesson planned more then a few days in advance is essentially worthless, anyway.
What I suggest is evaluating teachers based on their grade books. Looking at a grade book tells you how much work students have been doing, how regularly students are getting quick feedback, how thorough the instructional units are, what exactly is being taught and assessed, how it’s being assessed (the variety and authenticity of measurements will be readily apparent), as well as clearly showing trends in student achievement or failure.
I’m not suggesting that teachers be scored only according to how good their students’ grades are, but according to how well their actual teaching is reflected by the grade book. I’ve been to plenty of parent conferences where we teachers give the parents a progress report for a student and, after several weeks of a term, some of us will have twenty assignments recorded but some will only have four or five. On average, that’s less than one assignment per week! I submit that, in general, that’s a pretty clear indicator that not much is being learned–or taught–in that class. (I’ve always said, if students aren’t working, they’re not learning.)
The best thing about grade book analysis is that it can be done by remote. In my school district, we’re required to upload our grade books to the Internet so that parents, using a password, can access their own children’s grades. Not only could administrators have easy access to grade books by also logging in here, but they could see how often these records are being updated–another measure of good teaching, I’d say.
Bottom line, this method would make a teacher’s use of rigor and feedback very easy to see. Also, while it’s simple to fake a lesson plan book for appearance’s sake, it’s impossible to fake a good grade book. Authenticity guaranteed.