Teacher evaluation, aka accountability, continues to be a topic of wideranging debate. On the one hand, we have lots of folks who call for teacher "accountability." On the other hand, Race to the Top and the state waiver programs gave us systems of teacher evaluation that are spectacularly dysfunctional and conceptually stupid (how well some eighth graders do on a single, bad reading test should determine how good the shop teacher is?). And on the third hand, the new education law (ESSA) gives each state a chance to come up with new ways to make a hash of the whole business.
Critics (and I'm one of them) have said repeatedly that value-added measures and test-based ratings and a few other stupid things that have been tried are, in fact, stupid, destructive and bad for everybody. Supporters of the accountability movement have replied, "Fine then. What do you want to do instead?"
Okay, then. How do we get on the path to a useful method of teacher evaluation? Step one is to figure out what purpose the evaluation will serve. This may seem obvious. It isn't. Here are some of the goals that a teacher evaluation system might try to meet.
<b>To find bad teachers. </b>For a while, this was the focus-- we would find all the Bad Teachers and fire them, and then life would be swell. This remains the focus of attacks on tenure and seniority; we plan to cut your budget to the point that you have to fire people, and we want to be sure you fire the right ones. The bad ones....