The Need to Tackle the Complexities of Teacher Evaluations

“Changes are needed to honestly evaluate teachers,” wrote Marc Bernstein, a former New York state superintendent of schools, in his Wall Street Journal commentary, Where All the Teachers Are Above Average: New York teachers are great—just look at their ratings. Too bad so many students can't read. Providing critical and professional feedback in any setting is difficult enough, but it is exceptionally challenging in a school environment where, as Bernstein describes:
Administrators who are critical of teachers often lose the respect and cooperation of the faculty. Moreover, how can administrators explain to parents that their children have teachers rated ineffective but who remain in the classroom?
Recognizing educators who drive exceptional student growth or providing critical feedback to educators who need additional supports should not be the exception. It should be the norm. But in a system that fails to differentiate performance meaningfully, these types of rewards and targeted supports are next to impossible. Whether you agree with Bernstein’s suggested changes, his diagnosis of the complex challenges principals and administrators face is real and undeniable, and his call to transform the prevailing culture that discourages honest, actionable evaluations should be heeded.
Ann Whalen
Ann Whalen is senior advisor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Prior to returning to the U.S. Department of Education, she served as the director of policy for Education Post. Whalen has served more than five years in the Obama Administration with the U.S. Department of Education. At the department, Ann was director of the Implementation and Support Unit, providing technical assistance to ...

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