May 3, 2011
Teachers should not be exempt from evaluations
Last week, the Issaquah School District handed out a number of layoff notices to its education staff. Owing to state law, the newest teachers are the first to go.
The Legislature is considering changing that law to allow teacher layoffs based on performance, not seniority. The idea is good. The system where teacher layoffs are based on seniority needs to go.
Teachers’ union representatives often say there is no objective way to measure a teacher’s performance. In effect, they are saying it is not possible for administrators to determine who is a good teacher and who is bad.
Who are they kidding?
Every other profession in America manages to rate itself. In every office, supervisors rate the people who report to them. They establish performance criteria and judge how well the employee performs. In a well-run company, the system is reliable and predictable.
Yes, some of the measures are subjective. That’s the way the world works. Your boss judges you and can choose to fire you. It’s why Washington is an “at will” employment state. Nearly all employer-employee relationships — outside of education — work under this system.
We cannot believe that the schoolhouse is the one single workplace where it is impossible to know who does a good job and who does not. We understand the hesitance to use test scores. A teacher could get stuck with a class full of poor students in any given year, although with poor student test scores over a number of years, it’s probably time the teacher was let go.
There are other ways to evaluate teachers. Customer (parents and students) feedback matters. Principals know who on their staff is a good teacher, and who is not up to par. Find a way to codify this knowledge. Make expectations clear and fair.
There is a growing body of studies surrounding this issue. Tap into that knowledge and use it to form a rating system that is fair to the teachers, fair to the taxpayers and best for the students.
We hope state law changes, making this the last time seniority determines who gets the pink slip.