Are teacher evaluations telling us what we need to know?

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  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    May 22, 2014 8:55 p.m.

    There are so many errors in this article that I don't know where to begin.

    First, kids are tested at the beginning of the year. That's right, teachers get judged on a student's grasp of what last year's teacher taught, plus the time off for summer and then the addition of students who didn't even study at that school. The scores don't get back to the school until the end of the year. The kids are tested before the teacher has spent much time with them, and the evaluation doesn't reach the classroom until the year is almost over.

    Politicians on both sides of the aisle are destroying education. The media and the public are being persuaded by propaganda against public education. There is no profession that is so maligned as are teachers. DN never reports anything good about public education, unless it is about sports. Shame.

  • Dr. Thom Long Beach, CA
    May 21, 2014 8:06 p.m.

    If my pay as a teacher (and I have been one for over a decade) was tied to how well students perform in the classroom and on assignments, the first thing I would do is test each student, establish their ability to help me make my assessment goals, cut those students loose who could make the grade, then focus on those who can. Survival of the fittest seems to work in the real world and apparently in the classroom as well.

  • Rural sport fan DUCHESNE, UT
    May 20, 2014 8:18 p.m.

    The reality is that students are all different. If I teach an honors group, and move them from an 80% average to 90%, how does that compare to the teacher that takes a remedial group from 30% to 55%? The remedial class is still failing, but that's an amazing job of teaching. Not to mention, after 20 years of teaching, I have yet to see two groups respond the same to any technique I have used. Believe me, you don't want the teacher that scores the observation perfectly, what you want is the teacher that can figure your child out and provide a way for them to learn. No one has figured out how to measure that.

    As for the Sage tests... it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Kids are spending an awful lot of time testing. Some groups are reporting 6-7 hours just for the writing portion.

    I just hope someone produces a book for 9th grade math before the core changes again, as it has every 4-5 years in my experience.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    May 17, 2014 1:52 a.m.

    If students were only widgets...

    But if they were you might find in a class a widget that is pregnant, a widget that just broke up with his boyfriend and couldn't care less about the test, a widget that was sexually molested the night before by a family member, a widget worried about being bullied by others, a widget that doesn't test well but could show what he learned in a different way, a widget worried about his state baseball game coming up later in the day, a widget that has to work eight hours after school is over so he can help his family pay rent, a widget whose parents are never home because they are working three jobs and thus don't have the energy or time to help the widget with his homework, a widgets that have learning disabilities, perhaps several widgets that just moved into the country recently and don't speak English, a widget that spent all night playing video games, a widget that worries more about her social status and texts nonstop in class rather than staying on task.

    Then there is the issue that not all widget factories are equal.

  • cmsense Kaysville, UT
    May 16, 2014 10:01 p.m.

    "Among the key observations in the Brookings report is that student test scores play a relatively small role in teacher evaluations"

    "the study found that only 22 percent of the teachers are evaluated even partially based on test scores".

    "We find unions drawing the line on value added, we find litigation over it"

    "Overall, the Brookings report offered hard evidence that merit-based teaching evaluations, though imperfect, are statistically valid and much more valuable than older measures using paper credentials"

    Its laughable that teachers and unions don't wan't student test scores ie "value added" to be part of the evaluation. That's my main gripe. If someone makes widgets, they are judged on how well and how efficient they make widgets. Teachers teach and should be partially evaluated by the "value added" ie how much students learned. A study has shown that the difference between the very top teachers and the very bottom teachers is a full acedemic year of learning in one acedemic year. I don't want my kids to lose a year.

    I agree, administrators should focus on helping new teachers develop and helping struggling teachers and much less on proven teachers.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    May 16, 2014 6:25 p.m.


    You talk about the outliers. Are these the kids that sluff non-stop not to take the test and then when finally found take a whopping 20 minutes to do the test? I'm sure teachers want to be evaluated on these test results. As I said before, and maybe I wasn't clear enough, UNLESS STUDENTS ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE, teachers should not be held accountable.

    Plus as Fred pointed out, teachers have always been evaluated, will continually be evaluated and so forth. But the instrument proposed is faulty on many levels. Administrators will simply be overwhelmed as will teachers by what is proposed to go into effect in Utah in two years. This will not help education get better for our students but will make things worse. Worf is right, evaluations are overused right now (they should be done with the majority of teachers every 2-3 years with the focus of yearly evaluations being on the new teachers and teachers deemed struggling. Anything else is a waste of time and resources. We need our administrators to do many things including disciplining students and meeting with parents and not doing unneeded evaluations and non-stop paperwork.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    May 16, 2014 12:56 p.m.


    Some teachers are friends with the evaluator, and will be rated good no matter what.

    If you're not liked, it could be a bad evaluation, no matter what.

    Look at our country with its thousands of laws. No matter what you do, you're breaking one of them

    Teacher evaluations are lengthy, and if an appraiser doesn't like you, they can find something to mark you down with. This does happen often.

    This does add stress while lowering teacher performance.

    Evaluations are way over used for both teachers, and students.

  • cmsense Kaysville, UT
    May 16, 2014 8:45 a.m.

    @ Fredd

    My father was a teacher and retired as a school principal. My sister was a teacher and is now on a school board.

    What's the gripe with measuring how good a teacher is by measuring how much the teacher's students are learning through tests. How much the students learn is the point of teaching! What are you afraid of? Whether that portion is 25% or more like 30% it absolutely should be part of how a teacher is rated. If you want the kids to take more than one test a year, fine, or if you want them to take them over more than one day a year, ok. Over time, the more kids that take tests and either do better than expected or worse will tell a story. If there is a one off poor year, maybe that teacher was stressed or had health issues, no worry. But it may show that a teacher is very effective that a principal thought was poor, or it may show that a teacher really isn't that good of a teacher with five bad years in a row. Over time it will give valueable feedback.

  • Fred44 Salt Lake City, Utah
    May 15, 2014 8:55 p.m.


    I have been a teacher for 27 years teacher evaluation has been happening for at least 27 years that I can speak of. This is not new, nor is it something that teachers fear. Teachers are fine with evaluating their performance but simple logic would tell us that to evaluate a teacher based on their students performance on a single test on a single day is not a very effective or active way of measuring quality teaching. Evaluate me as much as you want, but please make it a fair and accurate evaluation of my teaching.

  • cmsense Kaysville, UT
    May 15, 2014 8:31 p.m.

    @ Howard

    As I said, if there are legitimate gripes the system should be corrected such as holding students accountable or tossing out any test results that are the obvious outliers. Good teachers have nothing to fear.

    The teacher evaluation train has left the station like it or not. They will join the rest of the professions out there who are already evaluated on the internet or by their bosses etc.

    I'm just surprized there aren't already websites were parents and students rate their local teachers but I'm sure they are coming.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    May 15, 2014 8:05 p.m.

    No cmsense, unless students are actually accountable for their test results teachers should not be held accountable for these same results. The door must swing both ways...

  • BU52 Provo, ut
    May 15, 2014 12:30 p.m.

    Aren't administrators just frustrated or poor former teachers, that had to get out of the classroom and make some extra money?
    The real problem, society wide, is compulsory education and funding schools based on seat time. When the schools are populated by a few miscreants that don't want to be there it disrupts and slows down everyone else and sucks resources out of the entire system. Sell off all the public schools to education companies and let the market go to work...which might also force some students and many more teachers to go to work as well.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    May 15, 2014 9:26 a.m.

    Students, and teachers have become lab rats to evaluations, comparisons, and measurements. Overcooked with it.

    Schools are for teaching and learning. That's the focus.

  • cmsense Kaysville, UT
    May 14, 2014 10:37 p.m.

    "When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates." - Thomas S. Monson

    There will be no perfect evaluation and they won't always be 100% fair, but there can absolutely be validated measures of teachers and at least 30% of that evaluation should be test scores. When teachers have legitimate gripes with the system, changes can be made to the system of evaluation, but evaluate we must.

    Kids need to be put first. Evaluations are needed to weed out the 2-5% of teachers that are burned out or in the wrong profession and that consistently from year to year underperform their peers by a large margins. Early career teachers or struggling teachers should definitly be provided with professional development and a chance to improve, but if they don't have the skills our kids come first!

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    May 14, 2014 7:48 p.m.

    Here's the rub, the evaluation instruments to be used shortly will be time consuming. Parents better not plan on being to meet with their principal soon as they will be consumed with paperwork. These instruments are a nightmare and will not discriminate between bad and good teachers but rather what teachers can jump through the right hoops. This will over burden both teachers and administrators but ultimately hurt students. Also, many administrators either weren't that great of teachers and some spent very little time in the actual classroom. I have to wonder if teachers should be evaluating teachers with other instruments coming from students and parents for a multi-prong approach. Also, do we have to evaluate all teachers every year or time better served evaluating newer and struggling teachers?

    As far as the test results. Let's get real. Unless the students can be held accountable for the results, there is hardly anyway we can hold teachers accountable. Also, let's face the reality that teaching at Skyline is easier than teaching at Granger (in regards to test scores) and punishing teachers from more challenging schools is just plain counterproductive.

  • Kings Court Alpine, UT
    May 14, 2014 6:22 p.m.

    Why is their no focus on administrators? Who is evaluating them? From my experience, there are many bad administrators who are determining who is a good teacher or not. From my experience, a bad teacher is easier to fire than a bad administrator. They just tend to get shuffled around the district office that is nothing more than good 'ol boys club. (There are some girls there too).

  • Kimball Bakersfield, CA
    May 14, 2014 4:30 p.m.

    The student demographic has to be considered in an objective teacher evaluation in addition to teacher observation. Test scores without controllling demographic variables of the students, are not a fair indicator of teacher competence. The equation needed for fair teacher comparison has to factor in the student being taught. They are teachers, not miracle workers.

  • souptwins Lindon, UT
    May 14, 2014 3:09 p.m.

    Having a teacher's pay based on test results is like paying your doctor based on your health whether you've followed their advice or not.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    May 14, 2014 12:01 p.m.

    Student accountability to test scores,- teachers to many evaluation forms,-than controlling of funding, our political leaders have a firmer grip on education.

    Parents have little rights to their children as students are fed, taught, and clothed by our schools.

    Teachers are increasingly being micro-managed.

    Is this the same America of just fifty years ago?

  • jp3 Salt Lake City, UT
    May 14, 2014 11:58 a.m.

    Make students accountable for their test scores, and you'll magically find that we have better teachers than we thought we did. For example, on the 7th grade Language Arts SAGE test (year-end standardized test), a student who scores zero percent and a student who scores a hundred percent both get promoted to the 8th grade. SAGE test results don't even count on their academic grade for that class--you can get an "A" in English and a zero on the SAGE. These test scores mean absolutely nothing, and the students know this. Making teachers accountable for test scores, but not students, is egregiously unfair to teachers.

  • old dad South Jordan, UT
    May 14, 2014 11:08 a.m.

    I spent over 30 years as an educator, in three different states, as well as in Canada. I found that evaluations were totally dependent on who was doing the evaluation. The teacher that was liked always got a good evaluation, while the one that was not liked, regardless of her/his effectiveness as a teacher, would get a poor evaluation. It was a "principals' pet" situation.

  • teachermom6 Northern Utah, UT
    May 14, 2014 10:57 a.m.

    I have been a teacher for almost six years. In this short amount of time, I have seen lessons change from creative enticing lessons to everyone teach the same way because it's common core and this is how we are supposed to teach lessons mentality. The academics and the powers that be figure that this dangerous precedence will fix the problem. The problems with education today do not stem from poor teaching....(there are some poor teachers out there I know that.) The problems stem from the breakdown of society. Until we place emphasis on "old fashioned" American values of work equals better future, we will go nowhere. This entitlement generation is creating havoc everywhere including the school room.

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    May 14, 2014 10:37 a.m.

    I can be the greatest teacher in the world. Outstanding plans, interesting discussions, and challenging but caring in my approach. But there will always be students who either don't care or don't show up. If you disagree with me on this let me ask one question: if I am wrong then why do we have prisons? When people know what they should do and still don't do it we use laws to (supposedly) correct behavior. We don't evaluate that parent who brought that child into the world and call them a bad parent. We don't evaluate that child who behaves improperly and call them a bad child. But we do tell that teacher that if Johnny doesn't hit a certain score on his test that somehow that teacher is not doing their job as a teacher. Am I missing something here?