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On teacher evaluation, a teacher’s perspective

Teacher evaluation — based partly on students’ standardized test scores — has emerged as one of the key issues in the school strike, a “dramatic illustration of the national debate on how public school districts should rate teachers,” according to the New York Times.

But teacher voices and teacher perspectives have been largely missing from the public debate.  You may have gotten the impression that teachers oppose being evaluated altogether.

That’s not the case, said Bill Lamme, a social studies teacher at Kelly High School and part of a CPS-CTU committee that negotiated over a new evaluation system earlier this year.

“I’m an advocate for the idea that teachers unions need to protect teaching,” he said.  He wants an evaluation system “that helps teachers identify deficiences in their teaching and helps them improve.”

He just doesn’t think that’s the purpose – or the motive – behind the system proposed by CPS.

New system

Two years ago a state law mandated new teacher evaluation systems throughout the state.  CPS pushed hard for separate provisions for Chicago:  instead of launching a new system by 2016, as other districts are required to do, CPS must — under provisions it advocated — do so this year.

And while other districts are mandated to negotiate with teachers representations for 180 days – and to use a state-designed evaluation template if they fail to reach an agreement – CPS was required to negotiate for only 90 days. And if no agreement was reached, CPS was entitled to implement its own proposal.

“That doesn’t set the stage for serious negotiations,” Lamme said.  Still, teachers met with representatives of the administration, and won some minor adjustments, he said.  “Basically they had their plan, and they weren’t very receptive to our larger, more substantive objections.”

Those center in particular on the use of statistical programs to measure “value added” based the scores a teacher’s students get on a standardized test.

Bogus

Those tests “are not designed for that purpose,” Lamme said.  “They do not have statistical reliability.  Teachers can be at the top one year and the bottom the next year.  They’re methodologically bogus.  They’re not defended by serious scholars in the field.”

They can’t account for the multitude of factors that go into teaching and learning.  “They do not have a good system to compensate for teaching in a difficult school, with high mobility, transient students, poor attendance.  A teacher can be teaching at their best every day, but the kids aren’t there every day.”

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