Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Effective Teacher Evaluation: Stuck in the Middle

According to an article in EdWeek, New groups giving teachers alternative voice, "...52% of teachers now have 10 or fewer years in the profession...."  Many of these new teachers are interested in new models of compensation, teacher leadership and career choices.  Not all teachers, regardless of their experience, agree on what it means to be an effective teacher.

Some of the newer teachers are finding their voices in new teacher advocacy groups, some of which are aligned within unions (see NEWTLA in Los Angeles) or outside of the local (see Educators 4 Excellence in NYC). Some of these groups receive funding from the Gates Foundation, while others do not.  It is arguable that E4E could be characterized as neo-liberal in its call for 1) teacher evaluation to be based on student growth and 2) the elimination of seniority.  Other groups, such as Teachers Union Reform Network, seek to integrate labor, professional and social justice models of unionism.  And as a member of Teacher Leaders Network, I've seen my own positions on educational policy be characterized as either too conservative or too liberal.

Some of our own colleagues may agree with some or all of these new teacher groups' platforms.

There is no clear political designation for these emergent groups, yet I would argue that our unions could be more communicative, both horizontally among members, and vertically between members and the union officers. For example, with Philadelphia's upcoming negotiations about the teacher contract (which expires in 2012), effective communication is a concern.  Where and when do teachers get to influence the direction of contract negotiations?

The issue of "teacher evaluation" is moving towards Philly, and it would be wonderful for teachers to have more of a say in what it could look like. In order to do that, we'll all have to do a lot more research on effective teacher evaluation policy.  If we're going to influence our union to cultivate teacher voice more often, then we're going to have to have concrete ideas that we can get out in the public discourse.

I'm delighted that some site-based unions will be taking a closer look at teacher evaluation. I wonder where Philly's Teacher Action group is.

What do you think is effective teacher evaluation?  What does it look like?  How can it be designed to foster student engagement, teacher voice, and professional growth?


  1. How is TURN getting dragged into this? We are teachers, yes, but identify there as union leaders. I don't see TURN in the article, just the comments. I'm perplexed.

  2. Steve, TURN reflects teachers' interest in union transformation. There's something that TURN is able to focus on that has not been adequately addressed by the major unions (nationally) or the many of the local NEA or AFT affiliates: the INTEGRATION of labor, professional and social justice frames. You have to dig around on the TURN website, but these three frames are there.

    TURN exists as a counterpoint to the less nimble and more entrenched unions with regard to teacher and student engagement "TURN's intended goal is to explore, develop, and demonstrate models that lead to the restructuring of unions so that they will become more responsive and responsible in organizing around projects designed to improve student learning."

    Although it may be an perplexing affiliation, TURN exists on a continuum of non-or quasi-union teacher groups that is looking for change.