Teaching is rocket science. It is difficult and complicated work and the system used to evaluate teachers needs to respect the complexity of the craft. Teachers inspire students to want to learn. They connect students to important content knowledge. They teach how to learn, and habits of mind. They help students believe in their ability to learn. And teachers establish the learning environment in which students develop social, civic, and interactive skills that will make them useful contributors to society.
Teacher evaluation has several purposes. It must identify teachers who are working below acceptable standards of practice, document the deficiency and lead to personnel action to ensure that only competent teachers are teaching students in our classrooms. But the evaluation system must also help teachers who are doing an acceptable job to get better Ė to expand their repertoire of strategies and skills. It should provide credible feedback to teachers and steer them to support for improvement. Lastly, the evaluation system should identify outstanding individuals and practices that are considered highly accomplished and document accomplished teaching.
Good teachers are not born. One of the primary responsibilities of a good school system is to nurture quality teaching. One of the responsibilities of a good teachers union is to ensure a culture of respect for the craft of teaching and to focus the district administration on providing needed support. For teachers, improvement is a career-long process.
In 1996 the US Congress granted the District of Columbia Public Schools, uniquely in the nation, the right to unilaterally make changes in the teacher evaluation system whenever it chooses, without consulting with, negotiating with, or involving the Washington Teachers Union. We do not accept that the WTU has no role in the design and implementation of the teacherís evaluation system. Regardless of the federal law, we know that a good evaluation system can only exist when it has the support of and credibility with the workforce it is designed to evaluate.
One of the most important tasks of a teacher evaluation system is that it be respected as a process by the teaching workforce and the principals and others who must implement it. It must use multiple measures including observations by respected and trained observers of practice. If it doesnít have credibility as a process, if teachers donít respect the approach and what they learn from it, if it is perceived as arbitrary or unfair, it fails.