The Status Quo In the Teaching Profession Is Insane

The Washington Post story about a veteran Virginia teacher’s efforts to fight her firing has gotten a lot of attention, I think in large part because it’s the kind of tale people can use to support whatever school reform position they already hold. Some have highlighted the story as evidence teachers need more protection, while others have pointed to the irony in the fact that if test scores had been used to evaluate her performance, she likely wouldn’t have been fired.

I don’t have much of an opinion on the story either way, but I do think it illustrates two important points about the absurdity of the status quo. First, it’s crazy that in the year 2012 we still have no idea how to judge a teacher. Sure, lots if people claim to “know,” but there is nothing close to a consensus. Is there any other organization or institution, whether it be a Fortune 500 company, government agency, non-profit, or professional sports team that hasn’t found a legitimate system for evaluating their employees? And this has been going on in education for 50 years. The fact is, if you can’t figure out whether the people in your organization are doing their job, it’s a sign that your whole system is an incoherent mess. If you need evidence that the entire way we think about formal education needs to change, this is it.

The article is also a reminder that the status quo regarding teacher evaluation is terrible. Many opponents of new evaluation systems carry on as though reformers are trying to disrupt a blissful world of smooth evaluation. In reality, the current system full of vague rules that ultimately necessitate exorbitant amounts of time, money, and lawyers. In the end, it pulls resources out of a school system that can’t afford to lose them. Whether or not you support a more quantitative or test-based evaluation system, the status quo is untenable. Again, where else in society would people put up with this?

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