I am writing in response to the Feb. 3 Forum piece “Let’s Keep Pittsburgh’s Promise: This Is No Time for the Pittsburgh Public Schools to Backtrack on Teacher Excellence.” The public discussion on the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ teacher evaluation system has been distorted. The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers is defending fairness and transparency for the men and women working to educate every child before them every day.
Teachers simply want to know how the complex mathematical formula known as VAM (value-added measure), which analyzes their impact on their students’ test scores, is calculated so we can know what to improve. We are told time and time again by the school district, simply no, trust us.
Teachers want to know how different administrators can evaluate the same teacher and come up with vastly different ratings. Teachers want to know how an individual teacher’s test scores can show great student growth, but their administrator rates them as a failing teacher.
An effective evaluation system is able to clearly show a teacher what parts of their practice need to improve and then coaches the teacher to improve.
The current system is deeply flawed because of its lack of transparency and deliberate actions. This current evaluation system will cause quality teachers to be fired without ever having known what they could have done differently to improve.
The writer is a teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools and treasurer of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.