Many school principals and teachers are protesting the new teacher evaluation system scheduled to be phased in this year in New York State, believing it has been rushed into place. They have concerns that it is flawed and that its introduction has been “confusing, contradictory and, frankly, disastrous.” From what I’ve seen, I would agree there are serious problems, ranging from questionable state test data to the diversion of scarce resources for implementation. However, I wonder if many parents are like me, willing to go with this flawed system because we’re so frustrated with things as they are, including the tenure system and the practice of laying off teachers based solely on seniority.
But just because current methods of teacher evaluation are, to say the least, imperfect, doesn’t mean teachers can escape growing public pressure to show results. Teacher unions would like for virtually all teachers to have lifetime tenure and for evaluation to play little or no role in their lives. Principals don’t want parents nosing into administrative decisions or complaining that their kids are getting stuck with subpar math teachers. Pointing to the deep and real flaws in everything from standardized tests to score students to individual teacher assessments is, among other things, a way to stave off public pressure for more accountability in the schools.
The public wants a look inside the “black box” of the American school. Some parents are too ignorant, too dysfunctional or just too laid back to care, but increasingly parents want to make sure that their kids are getting the best available teachers—or at least avoiding the turkeys.
This pressure isn’t going away; school districts and teachers are going to have to live with it. Demand for parental choice is growing, and it will grow further as more educational opportunities arise. Between charter schooling, homeschooling, and new forms of online education, there are now opportunities that simply weren’t available thirty years ago.
He predicts this is one step on the road to school choice.
Ultimately most parents are going to insist on the right to choose which schools their children attend. Schools will have to provide information about their teachers and their success in order to attract pupils. Today’s crude and often unfair bureaucratic evaluation methods are a baby step in the direction of a choice-based educational system. More and better steps will come.
Change will come, but I’d really like to know how many generations will it take.