In a Dec. 28 editorial, “Put teeth in teacher evaluations,” the editors of The Post and Courier took issue with the S.C. superintendent of education’s proposals for evaluating teachers. The editorial warrants a response from someone who has actually worked in schools and continues to have skin in S.C. public education.
Superintendent Molly Spearman has proposed a response to something very obvious: teacher evaluation as promoted by No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top, and the Charleston County School District $44 million BRIDGE initiative has at best failed, and at worst taken education off the rails.
We need to evaluate teaching, not just teachers, and all that goes into teaching — leadership, support, teaching conditions, resources, even teacher selection and preparation. Simply evaluating teachers is a fool’s errand.
We need to return to the idea that the learner, the student, does the learning. We cannot increase learning until students, parents and the community get that. When a student is disengaged and doesn’t learn, the teacher should not be the default target. That lets too many players off the hook. That lets learners off the hook.
School leaders and teachers have a great responsibility to provide the best opportunities to learn and to learn what matters. For that, schools and teachers should be held accountable, but that doesn’t work in the way salespeople are held accountable, as the editorial argues.
The expectation, the message, that education matters must be communicated to all involved, especially students, by schools, parents, media, the community. Lip service doesn’t count.
Engaging students in learning goes far beyond one teacher in one classroom and consequent test scores. Thinking otherwise is a very narrow, counterproductive view.
Understanding this can remove obstacles and make it possible to move forward.