The question of how to best evaluate teachers has as many different answers as the number of people you ask, but it almost always becomes muddied by the very structure of the scholastic environment. We have standardized testing to contend with, tenure to think about, and school boards trying their best to satisfy both the needs of the students and the bottom line of the school corporation.
Ted Dintersmith has an idea: Why aren’t we spending more time preparing kids for life outside of the classroom? When so much of a child’s future success depends on learning practical life skills, why aren’t we teaching more of that in schools? And, were schools to switch to the life-skills model instead of the “teach the test” model, how do we track which teachers are most effective?
The idea that schools often fail to prepare students for life beyond academia isn’t a new one, but implementing the kinds of changes necessary to “flip the classroom” proves to be harder than it sounds. Whether or not No Child Left Behind had been successful, it was a classic example of how even at the federal level, instituting philosophical changes to the way we teach our kids is about as easy as herding cats.
As Dintersmith notes in his piece for the Washington Post, “Maybe, in the end, the purpose of school is to help our kids find their own sense of purpose. To prepare them for a life where they can set, and achieve, their own goals, not grind away to meet the needs of some bureaucrat or college admissions officer.” So again, if we get schools on board with this philosophy, how do we then figure out which teachers are the most effective?
In many ways, The Danielson Framework for Teaching, Silver & Strong’s Thoughtful Classroom, Marzano’s Classroom Instruction, and many other frameworks still apply, and Standard For Success is already on top of the game when it comes to a full-scale customization for any scholastic model. In reality, these evaluations can be a driving force in helping to reshape school as we know it for the better. From Dintersmith’s article, regarding shared principles of “Deeper Learning” schools:
- Trust in teachers to teach to their passions and expertise
- A focus on essential skills (collaboration, communication, creativity, critical analysis)
- Teachers as coaches, mentors, and advisers, not as lecturers
- Lots of project-based challenges and learning
Those are perfect opportunities for teacher evaluations to help improve the system. As we measure, we can dynamically react to the changing nature of the learning environment, focusing on what works and offering help to what needs to be improved.
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