Hold Teachers Accountable, But Let Them Make Their Case

Tom Vander Ark writes about Summit Prep, A San Francisco high school with an innovative teacher compensation system.

Teachers are charged with gathering and presenting evidence of their performance as demonstrated in student work and achievement.  For example, a teacher wanting to be evaluated as highly proficient on Curriculum/Differentiation would have to present evidence he/she consistently differentiated throughout the course, and that students of all levels of prior knowledge and skill were able to access and demonstrate mastery as a result.

The school essentially says to teachers, “We understand you don’t like your performance being based on test scores. Fine. Now it’s up to you to prove you’re a good teacher. What is your evidence?”

The idea is powerful because it has to potential to be an ideological middle ground between the pro-accountability and anti-accountability factions. Pro-accountability reformers get a real accountability system and in return they simply allow a certain percentage of it to be based on self-evaluations. The anti-accountability people have to swallow a legitimate accountability system, but in the end they get one that is more impartial and gives teachers more control over their ratings.

One thing making education reform difficult is that the debate is still very ideological. Views on whether teachers should be rated by test scores are a lot more intractable than views on how much teachers should be rated by test scores. Giving teachers control over a part of the equation has the potential to move things to a place more conducive to compromise. If both sides can agree that any teacher rating system should be part quantitative-metrics and part self-evaluation, then they can move on to debating the size of the parts.

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