Regarding Sherry Fair’s article (News, “Teacher incentive,” April 12, 2010, Gazette): There is one major, greatly overlooked reason why teachers’ pay should not be tied to what is cleverly, and misleadingly, referred to as “student achievement.” If such an evaluative tool is to be used, it should be used honestly.
If student achievement, or educational effectiveness, is to be applied, teachers should be given the curriculum they are supposed to teach and the classes to whom they are to teach it. They then should be allowed to approach the material as they see fit, being allowed to modify their approach when they judge such modification is necessary. At the end of a certain period of time, if their approach is seen to be lacking, then it would be permissible to call them on ineffectiveness.
But, if there is measureable progress in student achievement at the end of this period, then the teacher’s effectiveness and success will be evident.
However, under the present plan used where teacher compensation is tied to student achievement, this is not the reality. Generally, someone not in the classroom or in a position where they are not teaching students decides on what approach the teacher should take, and then the teacher is judged on how effective he or she was under those circumstances. So, in reality, the teacher is not judged on how well they actually teach, but on how well they can apply the methods of someone else who has no contact with the students being taught even if those methods are theoretical and unproven in the environment in which that teacher teaches.
Some “bad” teachers could have been effective if allowed to use professional judgment and expertise; they may not appear to have been effective if they were not successful in applying these approaches.
When teachers of English, for example, are not allowed to cover certain topics in certain ways unless they are first able to successfully get a non-English teacher to see the value in it, but must instead follow the suggestions of that person, they are not truly being evaluated properly. They are being prevented from doing what they know through experience will work, and are then judged accordingly. This is wrong. It needs to be noted in their evaluation that they were held to perform according to someone else’s methods, and that person’s methods should first be evaluated for their effectiveness before a teacher is required to follow them.
If teachers have standards and requirements in their room that have been shown to be effective, these should not be modified by anyone else, especially if the teacher is going to be evaluated.