Reblogged from Russ on Reading
In an article this week in Education Week, Van Schoales, CEO of A+ Colorado, an education reform think tank, declared that Colorado’s model for teacher evaluation was a failure. This was a model that seemed to possess all the “right stuff” of teacher evaluation that corporate education reformers hold dear (VAMs, growth models, standardized tests, removing teachers who were not performing based on these scores). This is the same model that was supposed to make Colorado “ground zero” for education reform. This is the same model that was lauded by Arne Duncan and the Obama administration as a blueprint for the nation. Schoales says the model, rolled out with much fanfare and hoopla, has failed. He blames implementation (you know all those messy things like trying to implement all this when only about a third of teachers actually teach tested subjects and that teachers were never actually included in the planning).
Yes, Schoales says this was a great idea, implemented badly. While I praise Schoales for admitting the scheme doesn’t work, he has learned the wrong lesson. The very idea upon which this evaluation scheme was built was so flawed that there was never any hope of it being successful. Others have recounted in great detail how value added measures (VAMs) are hopelessly flawed. Both the American Education Research Association and the American Statistical Association have declared VAMs misleading and of limited use. Audrey Amrein-Beardsley has written a great book about it.
But the real flaw in all these reformy teacher evaluation plans is in a failure to see what teacher evaluation really is built on. Teacher evaluation is not built on value added scores, or rubrics, or student scores on standardized tests or even primarily on classroom observations. The great flaw in these reformy schemes, including those MET Studies promulgated by Bill Gates, is that for all their “data” they fail to recognize the most basic of drivers behind evaluation – trust. Teacher evaluation is built on relationships. It is built on the trusting relationship between teachers and supervisors.
Reformers can’t see this very simple and most basic fact of teacher evaluation because they are focused on a fool’s errand of seeking objectivity through numbers and a plan designed to weed out low performers, rather than a plan designed to improve performance of all teachers.