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Teachers on the Cutting Block
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The Spectator
founded 2004 by ron cruger
A place for intelligent writers
A place for intelligent readers
 by Laramie Boyd
ecrboyd@aol.com
        The District of Columbia, as in Washington D.C., is getting tougher on teacher evaluations. The school district bases part of these evaluations on student performance on standardized tests, and this increase on teacher oversight has now resulted in the firing of some 400 teachers since the new evaluations were put into effect. The school district has also decided to reward teachers with high scores on the evaluation process by as much as $25,000 per year. Due to the importance of a good education to the young people of America, and the role a teacher can play in that process, shouldn't we stay tuned in to see how this is working out in the nation's capitol, as other school systems might likely follow suit? Although the tight economic picture, if for no other reason, might urge school districts to cut back, this was not mentioned as a reason to fire teachers in the D. C. personnel layoffs. As a retired teacher after 32 years in the classroom, the first reaction I have is, who is doing the evaluations? Is it principals, other onsite administrators, other teachers, or a group made up of some of each of these parties? Or might it be a non-partisan outside panel judging the teachers for fitness to teach?
        Also, I wonder, what are the criteria being used to determine who is and who isn't a "good teacher?" Is an oral interview included, or a written test on the subject matter of the classes in the teacher's schedule? Maybe a poll of the teacher's students, or visits by the principal, vice-principal, or department chairman? How about their record on following existing teacher's dress codes, or the record of absences or tardiness of the teacher, or number of discipline referrals, which relates to how the teacher controls behavior in the classroom?" How much volunteering for extra-curricular school activities and clubs is the teacher involved in, and how about attendance at parent Back-to School nights?" You see, there is much more to being a teacher, whether a bad, good or even an outstanding teacher, than just what goes on during the classroom instruction. The list of responsibilities and deadlines never ends. Does the teacher follow the Board of Education and/or state prescribed curriculum and approved text books? Is the teacher taking classes to improve teaching methods? Clearly, how the teacher is judged and who does the judging is crucial in any teacher evaluation program, if it is to be anything more that a public relations gimmick on the part of the school system itself. And notice that no mention is made of evaluations of administrators. Are we to just assume that principals and vice-principals and counselors are doing oh! such an outstanding job, and that it's all the teachers fault if Johnny can't read or write, whether or not they get adequate back up, teaching tools, and supplies provided them by the administration? And that's when you'll hear cries of "not enough budget" from the administrators, nothing about whether or not they are doing a good job of administrating.
        Isn't it possible that if a teacher has a Bachelor's degree and a teaching credential from the state, that it is assumed they are qualified to teach? Because if it isn't, then it's the fault of the training institutions and certification personnel for issuing the credentials in the first place. Now, there are poor teachers just as there are poor doctors, lawyers, priests, parents and presidents. Being a "qualified" teacher doesn't guarantee being good, let alone good enough for a whopping bonus. Qualified means the door is open. From that point on it's up to the teacher. And the criteria for good teaching is not easy to define or judge. Often the results of the effort of teaching only shows up months or even years later in the success of the students who were in a teacher's class early on.
        Vague, general statements like, "The quality of teaching has improved since we started using stricter evaluating techniques" doesn't really mean much unless the criteria of acceptability for teachers is realistic, and done by competent, serious evaluators following strict, prescribed guidelines. And they must do a thorough job of investigating what the teacher does during the day, both inside the classroom and on the school campus. Teachers, as daytime guardians of our children, do not deserve to be rated unfit except by the closest scrutiny of qualified evaluators.