I do not believe you can evaluate teachers objectively… that’s part of the reason for the multiple measures approach I’ve outlined all week.
All teacher effectiveness assessment is, in my opinion, going to be biased. Subjectivity rules.
Matter of fact, I don’t think teachers can even assess students in an unbiased manner – but that hasn’t stopped anyone from giving grades this year, has it?
Or stopped the bubble test makers from giving out all those scantron sheets to fill out, I’ll note.
Let’s say you gave a kid an 89 on their persuasive essay. If three other teachers read that essay, do you think they’d all agree it was an 89? Might not one see it as a 90? Thus we have an A- being given out as opposed to a B+ for the same exact work. Maybe it’s an 86 to someone else, a mere B.
Extrapolate the math out now for 3 million teachers across the country. Nope, there will be no objectivity in this process and only a fool would dare even try to promise it.
A multiple measures approach is about gaining representative insight. It will never be exact because I do not think we have even yet mastered the art of being exact with our student assessments, and we’ve been giving out evaluations to kids for years and years.
And kids have been complaining about the grades we’ve been giving them for just as long.
Assessment, like beauty, is ultimately, to some degree, going to be in the eye of the beholder. Jim Burke talks about how one of his high school teachers didn’t flunk him simply because the two of them played racquetball together – though Jim definitely feels he earned an F for the course. (And Jim turned out to be one our most keen thinkers in the field of teaching… yet to get through high school, he needed someone to simply cut him some slack. Was that a “wrong” decision by Jim’s teacher? Would Jim do something of similar sort for one of his students? Would I? Would you?)
Assessment, is it objective? No. Fair? Sometimes. The way the cookie crumbles. For sure!
Just like life!
However, if you diffuse the amount of assessors and modes of assessment and they all arrive at a similar conclusion, I’d say the conclusions that can be drawn will be more than just coincidence… and can work to better inform all of us about what is actually going on in a teacher’s classroom.
And it’s certainly better than trying to connect teacher effectiveness directly to high stakes bubbles tests – don’t even get me started on that silliness things for the ten-millionth time.
But come on, do you really grade the last essay of the night at 11:12 p.m. with the same attentive eye you graded the first essay at 4:45 in the afternoon with a cup of joe in your hand? The world is imperfect, everywhere, and when we do finally get around to measuring teacher effectiveness, I’d be most wary of the person that tries to sell you on the flawlessness of the accuracy, the perfection of the insight of the evaluation.
It ain’t gonna happen. Subjectivity, when it comes to assessment, is the order of the day. From college admissions to who flunks what class (racquetball anyone?) to how we will ultimately be measured once the U.S. Dept. of Education gets this measuring teacher effectiveness kite to fly, we are just gonna have to realize that there is no such thing as objectivity.
We live in a world where all opinions, even those of experts, (and assessment really is nothing more than a sophisticated term for putting forth an opinion) must be taken with a grain of salt.
Thus ends this series…